HOWELL – For the fourth year in a row, a Howell family is collecting food donations to help local families in need celebrate Thanksgiving and make their holiday season more joyful.
“Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, being able to spend time with my family. So, I wanted to make sure people that needed help during the holidays were able to enjoy their Thanksgiving and spend time with their family like I always have. I’ve watched other people do collections and I wanted to start doing something myself and help out the community,” Mindy Musillo said.
The family began their Thanksgiving Basket Food Drive in 2018, and it’s now become an annual tradition for them.
This year, the collection has grown to be the biggest yet helping out 160 families. About 100 of these families are from Howell Township and the other families are from Jackson, Freehold or other surrounding towns.
Although last year’s holiday season was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Musillo family still had a successful Thanksgiving collection helping over 125 families.
“Last year, I think we got even more donations due to what was going on with COVID-19. More people requested help, but I think donations were more because people just wanted to find a way to help. This gives them an outlet to be able to help,” Musillo said.
In 2020, the family took it a step further and created their own nonprofit group, “Happy to Help in the Community.” The group helps families on a weekly basis throughout the year, providing those a little extra help.
“I have a Facebook group where people reach out to me and if people need help, they tell me what they need lie household items, food or just different things like clothing or even some small appliances, things like that. Then community members help by donated the items or money and help buy the items or help delivery them. There’re some families we help every couple of weeks or just a one-time thing. A lot of families come back every couple of weeks and ask for additional assistance,” Musillo said.
“My kids get very involved with the food collection, with the sorting and passing out flyers in the neighborhood, putting together the baskets. It’s a big neighborhood effect, a lot of my neighbors help and I have a Boy Scout Troop coming to help this year with the baskets,” Musillo said.
Those interested in making a donation can drop off either food, monetary donations or gift cards at 3 Eric Drive in Howell.
Items needed include frozen turkeys, Shoprite or Walmart gift cards, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, canned sweet potatoes, cornbread mix, canned green beans, canned corn, jars or cans of gravy, mini marshmallows, large storage containers, large laundry baskets, cranberry sauce, cake mix, brownie mix, packaged cookies, frosting, juice, coffee, iced tea mix, Thanksgiving napkins or plates, pasta, jars of sauce, brown sugar and aluminum pans for the turkey.
The Musillo family will be putting baskets together on November 13 and ask to make donations before then, but will except last minute donations up until November 18. Turkeys can be dropped off on November 19 or 20 as they plan to deliver baskets on November 20.
For additional information or if you know of a family who could use some extra help this Thanksgiving reach out to Mindy Musillo at firstname.lastname@example.org.