Thanksgiving baskets: sharing food for 30-plus years

If it seems like the Kachemak Bay Lions Club, Thanksgiving Basket program has been around forever, well, that might be because it has become so entrenched as a holiday tradition it just seems that way. 

Once again, the Lions  Club starts the holiday giving season off with its program to provide all the fixings for a Thanksgiving holiday meal. The recipe for success, as mastered by chairwoman Fran Van Sandt, goes like this:

• See who needs help;

• Raise money and food;

• In a mad dervish of volunteer organizing, fill up boxes of goodies;

• Distribute Thanksgiving baskets.

“We’ve done it so long we have a good system going,” Van Sandt said.

The Kachemak Bay Lions have been handing out Thanksgiving baskets for more than 30 years since it had a club, The Lions Den, in the basement of the Kachemak Center on Pioneer Avenue. It started when the group gave out about a dozen baskets.

“I just went, ‘You know what, you guys. This could be an awesome community service thing,’” Van Sandt said.

While the Lions administer the program, Van Sandt is quick to give credit to the community. Most of the donated money, turkeys, other food and volunteer labor comes from the community, while the Lions writes the checks for food purchased from local stores. The Lions also supplement the cost of the program through its fundraisers like a freezer raffle, what Van Sandt calls its “do good” account. She said she’s hoping most money for the Thanksgiving basket program will come from the community, though.

Applications for baskets can be picked up and turned in at Wells Fargo Bank until Nov. 19. Donation buckets also have gone out this week. New for this year, the Lions coordinates Thanksgiving basket giveaways with the Salvation Army. People who need baskets can apply through the Salvation Army or through the Lions’ program. Both lists will be merged.

“We’ll have one big one (list) with everybody,” Van Sandt said. “They’ll have one big place to go.”

The Thanksgiving basket program starts the holiday giving season that continues with Share the Spirit, the other big holiday charity event that happens leading up to Christmas and is coordinated — or co-coordinated — by longtime Share the Spirit volunteer Shari Daugherty. The two programs work together, Van Sandt said.

“It’s funny. Sometimes I get checks that say ‘Share the Spirit’ on them. We both work on things,” she said. 

The community can help out by donating turkeys, canned goods and money. Even items like boxes are needed. People can volunteer in a big push starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, at the basement of the Homer United Methodist Church, also the site of the Homer Community Food Pantry. That location helps if recipients miss the giveaway on Saturday. They can then pick up boxes at the food pantry’s Monday opening. 

Even people who get baskets can volunteer, Van Sandt said.

“You don’t have to stay away from helping if you want to get a basket,” she said. “I’m all for anyone who wants to come and help.”

Van Sandt praised the Methodist Church for its support.

“The people at the Methodist Church are just awesome,” she said. “I stand up at church and go, ‘I need money. Get your checkbooks out.’”

Van Sandt said she’s been doing the program for about 20 years.

“It’s a program that’s dear to my heart. I’m enthusiastic about it. I hope to train somebody to be as enthusiastic about this,” she said. “The Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’m going to do it another 20 years.”

But most of all, people can help just by donating.

“Money, time, turkey, food — anything they want to give us will be appreciated,” Van Sandt said.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at


Kachemak Bay Lions Thanksgiving Basket Program

How to apply:

Applications available in the foyer of Wells Fargo Bank until Nov. 19.

Baskets assembled:

9 a.m. Nov. 22, Homer United Methodist Church

Baskets picked up:

Baskets will be ready for pick-up 1 p.m. Nov. 22.

How to help:

Donations of turkeys and other food items will be accepted  the morning of Nov. 22 at Homer United Methodist Church.

Monetary donations may be mailed to:

Kachemak Bay Lions, P.O. Box 1824, Homer, AK 99603

For more info:

Call Fran Van Sandt, 235-8761