Oakland city employee helps feed the needy on Thanksgiving

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Feeding people in need over the Thanksgiving holiday is something an Oakland city employee has been doing for nearly 30 years.

She’s now nearing retirement, but she tells KRON4 that the free Thanksgiving groceries program will continue

It starts with a hug.

“Happy holidays, Mr. Richardson,” Maryann Mitchell said.

Then, arms filled with free holiday groceries are placed into a vehicle of someone in need this Thanksgiving at the Evangelistic Outreach Center in Oakland. The long-running charitable program comes straight from the heart of Mitchell, an Oakland police civilian employee and the woman behind Miss Maryann’s meals.

“We have been doing this, the Oakland Police Department, and the evangelistic outreach center where we are sitting right now for 28 years,” Mitchell said.

Miss Maryann says the idea developed around Thanksgiving time back in 1990 while she was on the dog watch shift with an Oakland police officer who noticed a family in need.

“And he came to me and said, ‘Maryann…do you know any program that I can direct this family to?'” Mitchell said. “And I said, ‘Yeah! You and I! If you go buy the turkey, I will put together all the other trimmings for you.'”

Nearly three decades later, she is still helping those in need, giving away groceries for an average of 200 happy Thanksgiving meals each year.

Although this is a civilian-led food drive, Oakland police officers play a key role in identifying those in need.

“If they come across a family that they see will be needing something, they just send their name and information to me, and I put together what you see here,” Mitchell said.

The turkeys were donated by Safeway. However, she says holiday tradition sometimes calls for her to sacrifice paying her monthly bills to buy the rest of the groceries.

“But this year, I had enough money to buy what was needed,” Mitchell said.

Miss Maryann says she is preparing for retirement after 30 years at OPD but plans to pass on the thanksgiving grocery giveaway to her granddaughter.

“Me and my granddaughter,” Mitchell said. “She is 22 now, and she grew up with me right here doing this.”

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