By Crystal Harrell

Thanksgiving is set to look very different from previous years. What is usually a time for family and friends to get together in turkey day camaraderie is made much more difficult because of COVID-19, as the number of cases continue to increase throughout the country. Even amid the pandemic, there are resources for those in need during the holiday season. Martha’s Village and the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission have heightened their safety protocols in order to provide meals and other services during Thanksgiving.

Martha’s Village and Kitchen will still be serving Thanksgiving meals in Indio at their main campus on November 25 and 26, starting at 10 a.m. through 2 p.m.  Instead of the traditional way of serving buffet style, meals will be prepared to go and served adhering to coronavirus safety protocols.

Martha’s Village & Kitchen is one of the largest providers of homeless services in the Coachella Valley and Riverside County. The organization began in 1990 when the founders served meals to their homeless neighbors. Today, from its campus in Indio, Martha’s Village offers unique life-changing programs based on the nationally recognized “continuum of care model” breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Martha’s Village and Kitchen provides housing stability to 120 seniors, children, families and

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individuals each night at their facilities in Indio. This housing provides stability for a better functioning immune system, sanitation, and the safety for sleep, proper nutrition, and social distancing.

The Coachella Valley’s seniors are especially vulnerable as well. Martha’s Village and Kitchen serves over 900 seniors each year. The agency is already seeing a large demand and increase for services. Now that schools and many programs for children have closed, Martha’s Village is seeing an increase in demand for food and other emergency services for children and their families.

“We always stand at the ready to serve the community. The fast-changing circumstances related to the coronavirus have put an enormous need for supplies that we simply do not have the funding for. We also need to increase staff, so that we can take care of the most vulnerable in our community. Understandably, we have seen an extensive drop in our volunteers,” said President and CEO, Linda Barrack.

The Fortem Financial Thanksgiving 5K benefitting Martha’s Village & Kitchen will also take place Thursday, November 26 through Sunday, November 29. Participants are encouraged to do the “5K Your Way!” this Thanksgiving weekend and take action against food insecurity and homelessness.

Participants may register themselves as individuals, start a team, or join an existing team. They can pick up your essential race gear on the packet pick-up days of November 24 and November 25 at Westfield Mall in Palm Desert.  Team Captains will have an early option for team packets.

The NBC Palm Springs morning news team will also be participating, featuring stories about Martha’s Village on Thanksgiving morning. Participants can create a route of their very own and post pictures and tag @MarthasVilllage or hashtag #MVK5K on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to show spirit.

The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission is also following in its annual tradition of serving Thanksgiving meals to the public, starting on November 25 with a dinner service from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and on November 26, with breakfast from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and dinner from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Because of COVID, the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission will be implementing contactless service as opposed to the buffet style of serving. There will be large, open-air tents set up in the mission parking lot. Lines will be organized outside to pass out food, and once the meal is received, people are invited to eat outside in the parking lot. There will be hand washing stations and temperature checks on the premises.

“We are just trying to roll with the punches and get with the times. Even the volunteers that are serving the meals will be socially distancing and they will only be working 2-hour shifts. The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission has been serving the desert’s underserved population for 50 years now. It is very vital to serve those. More people are in need than ever before. We want to make sure that we are keeping everyone safe, happy, and healthy. We are enforcing these safety measures to ensure we can keep this tradition going,” said Scott Wolf, Development Director of the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission.

Operating since 1971, the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission has provided a safe place for those in need of refuge. The dedicated staff and volunteers have served more than 360,000 meals annually and provided shelter to thousands of men and women with children. Food, clothing, and showers have even been provided for those who choose not to stay at the shelter.

The Rescue Mission is looking for donations to reach their goal of serving 30,000 meals by Thanksgiving this year. Donations can be made at cvrm.org.