Volunteer of the MonthDecember 2008
Joe, the Thanksgiving Elvis
For Joe Forester, the Thanksgiving holiday means a trip to the Believe In Tomorrow Children’s House at Johns Hopkins and dressing up as Elvis.
Last year Joe, who has organized donations, volunteers, and cooked dinners every Thanksgiving for ten years, changed into his Elvis impersonator costume to entertain during the meal and take pictures with the children.
“I have a brother that I never met that passed away from leukemia at 5-years-old and it’s kind of a way of honoring his memory,” says Joe about his Thanksgiving volunteer efforts.
For Joe, planning a Thanksgiving feast for up to 15 families staying at the Children’s House and those who come over from St. Casimir starts in October. Using his knowledge as a food broker, Joe sends out solicitation letters asking community supermarkets and restaurants to donate.
This year Food King will donate turkeys, Mars will provide salad, Dean’s Restaurant in Hampstead, Md. will give mashed potatoes, and Beth’s Corner in Westchester, Md. will bake up to eight pies, among other donations.
Joe lights the ovens at 5 a.m. to start the turkeys, which leaves the house smelling of the season by the time families get up. By 10 a.m., 15 other volunteers show up to follow Joe’s direction in preparing the rest of the Thanksgiving meal. Families that can, sit down to the meal at noon. The rest is left for families to eat whenever they can squeeze it into their schedules.
“One little boy had nothing to eat for months. He was living off a feeding tube,” says Joe. “He had literally one bite of turkey and that was all his stomach could take. He was so happy. He said, ‘That was so good, but I’m full.’”
Joe, whose favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because it’s about more than presents, says he keeps coming back each year and organizing the feast because he enjoys meeting families from all over the country, and the world.“Even for a few minutes, that lets them forget the problems in their lives,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to sit down and forget your troubles and have a meal.”