Thanks to a recent donation, residents at Hand in Hand Support — a transitional home in Windsor for those battling addiction — were able to gather like a family for a Thanksgiving meal on Monday.
The turkeys, ham and all the fixings were donated by a local resident, Sam Sinjari.
"It may not seem like it's a big deal for some people, but that was huge for us," said intake co-ordinator and resident Matthew Peters, who is in recovery himself.
"Just knowing that there's supports like that in the community that are willing to not only help us, but to just be a part of this organization, it's extremely humbling and heartwarming."
Elizabeth Geddes, executive president of the board, said that when Sinjari approached the organization with his donation, she mentioned that they didn't have anywhere to store the food. Then Sinjari came through and provided a freezer for the organization.
Hand in Hand Support was "blessed" to receive the donations, she said.
"Nutrition is a really big part when you're in recovery, and to be able to give our clients a safe place that's sober, we connect them with services, and to be able to have a hot meal, as well as a fellowship, is what this is all about," she said.
Hand in Hand Support launched earlier this year. The organization, which does not receive any government funding, provides transitional housing and support to those in recovery. Right now, the group is hosting 45 men at one location, and 10 women at another.
Hand in Hand Support was established at a time when the opioid crisis is worsening in Windsor-Essex. In 2020, a record 348 overdoses were recorded locally, and 64 people lost their lives.
So far this year, public health has issued more overdose alerts than any year prior.
'Our doors are open'
Ron Girard, director of operations with Hand in Hand Support, said the crisis has been devastating to families and those on the frontlines.
"It's been an epidemic here, so we've took a stand and established something that I believe is a lot different than anything else," he said. "It's an open home to people struggling — anybody from anywhere — and our doors are open to be able to help these men and women."
And for the home's residents celebrating Thanksgiving on Monday, the occasion is a chance to share a meal with friends and others who can relate to their situation.
"A lot of the men and women that will be here, [they're] just grateful to be alive. A lot of them have been very close to death more than recently, and it's an opportunity to actually have a family atmosphere, which I think they're longing for," he said.
As for Sinjari, the man who made the feast possible, he hopes his donation helps shine a spotlight on the work Hand in Hand Support is doing.
"I hope that it inspires other people to recognize this organization and step forward to volunteer, to donate, to bring any size of donation, to help the great people in this organization that are helping those around us," he said.