The story has been corrected to note that Girl Scouts also helped with the food drive.
BY SYDNEY HOOVER
With Thanksgiving only four days away, Eudora residents and businesses are preparing for the holiday amid a pandemic as local coronavirus cases spike.
With positive cases in Eudora at an average of 23.3% as of Friday, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health recommends taking extra precautions this year for Thanksgiving celebrations.
This includes celebrating outdoors rather than inside where transmission is more likely, limiting the number of people at a gathering and avoiding travel as much as possible.
Charis Grosdidier said she and her family typically stay in Eudora to celebrate with family members who live locally. Because they have consistently been in contact with that family, they still plan to gather on Thanksgiving, providing a sense of normalcy during the holiday season.
“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, so I’m looking forward to it,” Grosdidier said.
Grosdidier said while Thanksgiving is always an “introspective time,” it will be even more so this year as many families deal with loss or fear amid the pandemic.
With many families likely staying in town for the holiday, businesses and organizations in Eudora are preparing for larger crowds than usual. At Gene’s Heartland Foods, Assistant Manager Michelle Martin said the grocery store is anticipating more people will shop closer to home this year.
“We’re already starting to see that,” Martin said.
In addition to the Thanksgiving sale including a variety of traditional Thanksgiving foods, Martin said the store is seeing toilet paper and paper towels flying off the shelves again.
For families in need this holiday season, the Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry through the St. Paul Church of Christ is giving away turkeys and other food. Pantry Coordinator Sue Neustifter said in the last two weeks, they have given out more than 200 turkeys.
The pantry also collected 5,659 items from the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts food drive Saturday. Families in town were encouraged to set a bag of food items on their doorstep and Scout members would collect the food throughout the day for the Alliance Food Pantry.
Neustifter said Scouts typically do a food drive in the spring, but pushed it back to November due to the pandemic. She said this year is the most they have ever collected.
“We were just really happy,” Neustifter said.
While many families are looking forward to seeing each other this holiday season, other residents have chosen to remain isolated — particularly senior citizens who are at higher risk for the virus.
Ruth Hughs, Eudora vice mayor and founder of the Eudora Senior Foundation, said while some will still get to see immediate family, most are not seeing extended family, and “everybody’s disappointed.”
“There are some seniors who will truly be alone, and that just breaks my heart,” she said.
Belinda Rehmer said her grandchildren are what have kept her optimistic throughout the pandemic, and this year, she’s looking forward to seeing them safely to celebrate the holiday.
Most of her adult children have been working remotely throughout the pandemic, and they feel comfortable gathering with immediate family in Eudora for Thanksgiving.
She said the pandemic would have been more difficult if she didn’t have the ability to see her children and grandchildren, and she’s grateful for that this Thanksgiving, as many of her friends have not been so lucky.
“My grandchildren have kept me sane during this,” Rehmer said. “It would definitely be different if I didn’t have that connection to my kids.”
Hughs said neighbors of seniors who are isolating can help brighten the holiday for them.
“I think it would be awesome if people who live next door to seniors could let them know they’re being thought of,” Hughs said. “Call a senior. I think that means a lot.”
Anyone in need of food items for the holiday can contact the Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry through the St. Paul Church of Christ at 785-542-2785.