TOWNSEND -- As the holiday season rounds the bend, the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach is preparing to offer families of Townsend the full experience, regardless of economic or financial state.

On Saturday, Nov. 3, Boy Scout Troops 10 and 81 as well as Cub Scout Pack 11 assisted the TEO in this mission. As they have done every year for more than a decade, according to TEO president Don Ouellette, the Scouts canvassed the town, street by street, hanging empty plastic donation bags on the door knobs of the houses. Attached to the bags were fliers with requests for edible donations for the holidays.

"Then Saturday (Nov. 10) they'll go back around and pick up the bags that are hopefully overflowing with food donations," said Troop 10 Scout Master Tom Whittier.

The Scouts are looking for donations of all the Thanksgiving fixings, right down to the gravy.

"So they (the families served by the TEO) can all have whatever they need for a Thanksgiving dinner with their families," said Whittier.

Following the town-wide collection, the Scouts will bring the items back to the TEO headquarters at 82 Bayberry Street.

"We'll have a couple of volunteers up there of our own to sort and label," said Ouellette.

Town residents interested in donating food can also bring items to any of the town's several churches. Ouellette said all of the local churches participate in the TEO's food collection and try to get the items up to the organization on the day that it is donated.

The TEO Thanksgiving distribution will be on Nov. 17.

In past years, the TEO has assembled Thanksgiving baskets, but, said Ouellette, people had removed and returned items from the basket that they didn't have a taste for, so this year they plan to have the normal shopping set-up typical of their regular distributions. That way, he said, shoppers can choose specifically what they want.

"We'll have turkeys, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, everything for Thanksgiving," said Ouellette. The TEO will also be purchasing items to fill any holes in the donations and make sure there is enough turkey to go around. "It is a bigger, more expensive distribution (for the TEO)."

Ouellette said in past years, the TEO have collected up to 10,000 pounds of food for the Thanksgiving drive; during the distribution day, they can give out up to 3,500 pounds. Favorable items to donate are the non-perishables, such as canned goods, so that they can be distributed throughout the remainder of the year.

"We're down to the very end of our canned goods from last year," he said.

Throughout the year, said Ouellette, the TEO services approximately 70 families; during the holiday season, that number tends to rise up into the 90s, impacting over 300 people. Although the number is higher than what it was a few years ago, said Ouellette, it's remained fairly consistent since then.

"The truth is it's been pretty steady," said Ouellette. "It's stayed in that range for the last two years. I'm not expecting it to go over."

The TEO will have a similar drive for Christmas, scheduled for Dec. 22, but it will also include a toy drive.

Right now, said Ouellette, his biggest concern for the TEO is manpower.

"We're really looking for more people to do this," he said. "It's one or two days a month for only a couple of hours."

Residents interested in volunteering with the TEO or signing up for food distribution can contact them at teo3@verizon.net.

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