MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Thursday should have been a celebration for a holiday tradition turning 50 years old.

St. Paul’s Barb Asleson and long time friend Bill Foussard started Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels while in high school. Through the years, it grew, but this year it was too big to pull off safely.

One of the simple joys of spending Thanksgiving with Asleson has always been her giving spirit. But in 2020, “giving” Barb’s way isn’t all that simple.

“One of the real disappointments of not being able to do Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels, is the need this year is so great,” said Asleson.

Usually the Cretin Derham Hall parking lot is full, with thousands of volunteers packing meals inside. But this year has been so far from anything traditional.

With COVID in mind, Asleson and Foussard had no choice but to cancel Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels. But she couldn’t let the day pass without making some else out of it: bags full of food.

“And we’ve got socks and gloves and hats that we are putting in these bags,” she said.

The food is donated by Jimmy John’s, Davanni’s and a local Sams Club.

Greg Olson, Asleson’s brother, has done this before.

“The people we actually give this to, just the appreciation. People are crying they’re just so grateful,” said Olson. “That humanity, that soft spot in my heart still exists which is kind of refreshing.”

Driving through St. Paul, they quickly found people whose road has been long, steep, and most recently, cold.

“They don’t look down upon us, know we’re going through a hard time, rough situations,” said Mark Brown, who lives in a St. Paul encampment. “They’re giving us a little bit of hope, a little bit of joy.”

Brown has never spent Thanksgiving at the encampment. His plan is to never spend it here again.

“I’m always grateful for waking up tomorrow,” he said. ‘You know tomorrow’s never promised.”

Asleson and Foussard plan to continue Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels next year and throw a 50th anniversary celebration then.

 

Christiane Cordero