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Our Community Place serves expanded Thanksgiving meal to those in need

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – Our Community Place in Harrisonburg held its annual Thanksgiving meal for those in need on Thursday. OCP serves around 100 people each Thanksgiving and expanded the meal this year, in addition to the meal served at OCP volunteers delivered 40 meals to people in need around the community.

Among the volunteers on Thursday were family members of late Harrisonburg activist Stan Maclin who hope to continue his legacy of service.

“Doing community things was really the nature of him and really close to his heart. He called Harrisonburg beloved Harrisonburg and so we wanted to honor him this year to partner with OCP and help serve the community by providing the Thanksgiving meal,” said Shar Trimiew, Maclin’s daughter and the President of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center.

Alongside Trimiew were Maclin’s widow Diane, his daughter, grandson, granddaughter, and son-in-law Derek Chaudhuri. Chaudhuri wanted to help out at OCP in honor of Maclin and his own mother Kathleen Poland.

“Every Thanksgiving, every Christmas meal she would bring me out here and I lost her last year. So I wanted to combine our families together to be able to help out at a place my mom loved,” said Chaudhuri.

Maclin’s family said he always worked to build bridges and make Harrisonburg a model community. He was involved with many organizations around Harrisonburg including OCP.

“He believed in faith, family, and community, that was him. So we’re continuing that work that he started with the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center,” said Trmiew. “One thing my dad was about was the P.E.A.C.E. movement, People Everywhere Acting Couragesly Every day, that’s what we like to promote and I will like this a great opportunity to do that right here.”

Derek Chaudhuri came from humble beginnings having been raised by a single mother and stressed the importance of remembering those in need, especially on the holidays.

“I understand how it is to not be able to have everything that you need and want. So I think it’s important to be able to give back because there are people today that don’t have a meal and wouldn’t if we weren’t here doing this,” he said.

OCP’s increase in volunteers this year allowed it to make Thanksgiving deliveries for the first time.

“We organized everything ahead of time and people could sign up ahead so we actually in the end had to turn down some volunteers. We appreciate all the donations that have come in as well, money, food, and different supplies to help us be able to do this this year,” said Sam Nickels, Executive Director of Our Community Place.

Nickels said that unfortunately, the number of people in need around the Harrisonburg community remains high.

“There are still a lot of folks who are struggling with homelessness. The Open Doors Shelter is at capacity, the Salvation Army is full again after reopening a couple of months ago and we’re very thankful for all those groups do,” he said.

OCP works to help people out of homelessness and has helped place 131 people in the area in housing over the last year.

“I think the key at this point is to keep folks housed and to really work at that. So we’re providing supportive case management to try to keep folks housed and not fall back into homelessness,” said Nickels.

As OCP and other organizations like Mercy House work to combat homelessness in Harrisonburg the hope is that the city’s first permanent homeless shelter will be complete around this time next year. Nickels said that OCP has had talks with the city about potentially helping run day programs at the shelter when it is built.

“There’s been a lot of talking going on for about eight months now. We’ve had service providers meeting with the city and county trying to work together to establish what should be the services that are provided there. How can we collaborate and bring different agencies into that new facility,” he said.

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