Every Thanksgiving, the volunteers with Pilgrim’s Pantry are dedicated to providing hot meals to the underprivileged. Beginning in 2013, Pilgrim’s Pantry was founded by Mike and Mary Alice Ezzell with the purpose of offering a piece of the holiday that many often times don’t get to experience.
“Our mission is to serve a hot, home-cooked meal on Thanksgiving Day to folks who otherwise wouldn’t get one,” Mike Ezzell said.
The idea for Pilgrim’s Pantry initially stemmed from the Ezzell’s participation in the Mobile Loaves and Fishes Ministry with their parish. This ministry provided cold lunches on a monthly basis to those in need. After volunteering with the group and witnessing those impacted, the Ezzells were inspired.
“Just once I’d wanted to give them a hot meal,” Mary Ezzell said. “We went home sat on the couch with a pencil and paper and started figuring out how we were going to feed them and that’s how it started.”
In its’ first year of existence, Pilgrim’s Pantry served 165 meals out of the Ezzell house with only four volunteers. Since then, the group has grown tremendously.
“The first year I thought no one was going to want to give up their Thanksgiving, but it turns out there’s a lot of people who have kind of stepped up and really want to help,” Mike Ezzell said.
Last year, the nonprofit served over 1400 meals. This year, Pilgrim’s Pantry distributed meals at six different locations around the San Antonio area.
In its eight year of existence, the group has seen consistent growth in both the number of meals served as well as the volunteers involved. This growth is due in part to the group now utilizing the commercial kitchen at the Maestro Center. The kitchen space has allowed Pilgrim’s Pantry to double the amount of meals served on Thanksgiving.
“It is because of this kitchen we were able to expand like that,” Mary Ezzell said. “Before we were doing it in our home.”
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this Thanksgiving had to operate a little differently. In order to be observant of COVID-19 precautions, food packing was socially distant, the number of volunteers at a time had to be limited, food distribution was in a drive through format and conducted outside.
“The need is greater, but we can’t take the risk of having a lot of volunteers here,” Mary Ezzell said.
This year the organization had around 250 volunteers give their time over the course of four days. The operation of Pilgrim’s Pantry relies heavily on the work and assistance of volunteers all of which come from a diverse range of careers and backgrounds.
“We have doctors, lawyers, restaurant and food workers,” Mike Ezzell said. “We have plumbers, retired people, and a lot of students, so really all walks of life.”
“It’s very humbling to see that people want to give, they want to help,” Mary Ezzell.
Ultimately, Pilgrim’s Pantry is dedicated to serving those less fortunate on the Thanksgiving holiday every year. The Ezzells along with hundreds of volunteers dedicate their time, effort, and their Thanksgiving holiday because of the worthiness of the cause.
“There is no other way I want to spend Thanksgiving,” Mike Ezzell said. “It really is a labor of love and I really enjoy doing it.”