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Dowagiac nonprofit donates Thanksgiving baskets to families in need

DOWAGIAC — A Dowagiac nonprofit made sure families had a filling Thanksgiving this year.

St. Francis Outreach distributed 35 Thanksgiving baskets to families in need this holiday weekend.

“I give all of the credit to the community,” said SFO member Donna Dodd. “We started out last year with 17 baskets and have more than doubled that this year.”

Founded in 2015 by parishioners from Holy Maternity of Mary Church and Sacred Heart of Mary Church, along with volunteer members of the community, SFO aims to improve the lives of individuals and families in the Dowagiac community through outreach services providing free food and clothing.

Save-A-Lot, 609 N. Front St., Dowagiac, donated 55 bags worth of goods that were incorporated into the Thanksgiving baskets, which were packaged by 20 SFO volunteers. According to Dodd, the endeavor would not have been possible without the community’s help.

“We had 20 turkeys donated to us from a Marcellus family,” she said. “A doctor in Cassopolis donated $1,000, and another family gave us $500. Family Fare gave us a $50 gift card. People are so generous. In these terrible times, we have people who continue to give.”

The endeavor is one of many SFO does for the community. The organization’s backpack program supplies students in need at Dowagiac’s four elementary schools and at Dowagiac Middle School with weekend meals. The organization also hosts clothing giveaways and sponsors various events throughout the year.

Nancy Crowl said she enjoys being a member of SFO and the atmosphere that comes with it.

“Sometimes with groups, you have to get people to volunteer,” Crowl said. “You don’t have to do that here. It’s great working with the people we have. Everyone is more than willing to help.”

The organization works closely with Dowagiac Union Schools to help identify students and families in need of food and clothing.

“We have a great rapport with the schools,” Dodd said. “The teachers, secretaries and counselors are our eyes and let us know if anyone needs anything. They know the families who fall between the cracks.”

Dodd enjoys giving back to the community and hopes SFO will continue to spread its reach in the years to come.

“We hope once COVID is under control that we can host a Thanksgiving dinner for those without a family or without a home,” she said. “You’d be surprised how many kids are homeless, but those are the people we want to reach. Being a part of this organization is wonderful. Giving back like this is a wonderful feeling.”

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