Volunteers pass out 250 turkeys to Wilmington neighborhoods 'devastated' by Hurricane Ida

Almost three months after remants of Hurricane Ida flooded Wilmington’s Riverside and 11th Street Bridge neighborhoods, the community is still feeling the storm’s effects.

Many residents lost their homes and cars when the Brandywine overflowed, and some are still living in shelters. Julie Bieber, director of operations at Kingswood Community Center in Riverside, described her community as “devastated.”

“There’s a real need out there,” she said. “There’s a long-term recovery plan, but that plan is really for the buildings, not for the people.”

The surrounding neighborhoods were also impacted by pandemic job losses and rising inflation rates nationwide. Zanthia Oliver, who represents the 3rd District on Wilmington City Council, said she has “never received so many calls from this particular area.”

Because of this, Bieber said many residents didn’t know if they would be able to afford meals for the upcoming holiday season.

To address this need, Bieber partnered with Oliver and Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long to organize a turkey giveaway outside the community center Friday afternoon.

Celeste Enzor, community and family service coordinator at Kingswood Community Center, said cars began lining up on Bowers Street as early as 10 a.m. – over three hours before distribution began.

“The need is not going away,” Enzor said.

Volunteers gave out 250 turkeys from ShopRite to community members for Thanksgiving, as well as canned goods and cooking supplies. They also gave out COVID-19 vaccinations, pet food and naloxone, which reverses opioid overdoses.

Hall-Long, who helped to distribute the naloxone and explained how to use it, said it was important to come out and “address the vulnerable communities who have recently suffered,” whether due to flooding, COVID-19 or mental health issues.

“Not only are we giving them some comfort for their stomachs, but we’re also giving them comfort and recognition that they are cared for emotionally, as well as physically,” she said.

Hall-Long recalled one woman who teared up when she gave her the naloxone kit. She said the woman told her that her son died of a heroin overdose a few months ago, and with the efforts of people like Hall-Long, “hopefully another parent won’t have to suffer like (her).”

Dr. Sandra Gibney, chair of Delaware’s Behavioral Health Consortium, said that seeing these types of positive responses is the “greatest reward.” Community members need to “know that they’re not forgotten and that (volunteers) will help them,” she said.

Gibney and Hall-Long also go door-to-door throughout Wilmington to hand out naloxone every month. The city has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the state.

Receiving donations like this is a “blessing,” said Wilmington resident Vanessa Hopkins. Before hearing about the food giveaway, Hopkins said she worried about not being able to afford a turkey and ham for her family’s traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Now, she said she doesn’t have to worry about either.

Enzor said Kingswood Community Center plans to have another holiday giveaway before Christmas and continue to volunteer throughout the year.

“This is just a small token of what we’re able to do,” she said. “And we hope to continue to be able to serve our community and be a support to those people that are in need.”