“She’s been going through a lot lately,” Douglas Bethea said as Rhea Brown exited Mid-K Beauty Salon clutching her bag of turkey and groceries.
“Dougie, I love you man” she said. “Thank you for everything.”
Bethea, a community activist and street outreach worker, was on a route Tuesday evening that he takes this time every November: delivering 40 turkeys as well as groceries to families who would otherwise not have their own Thanksgiving meal.
“When I’m home eating, I’ll be happy to know that someone else is eating,” he said. If it weren’t for Mid-K salon and my drill team, they wouldn’t be eating.”
Mid-K Beauty Salon, located on Dixwell Avenue, has paid for the turkeys Bethea delivers for the past seven years. Started by In Ju Yun’s father, the practice is a way “of giving back. Everyone comes in here and buys from them, so they think it’s important to give back to them. They’re the only store really committed to this community, and we appreciate all they do for us,” said Bethea. Nation Drill Team, which Bethea rims, purchases the turkeys and groceries.
Rhea Brown said she planned to cook her turkey that night, “because I’m not missing the Hillhouse-Cross football game for nothing. It’s a part of my Thanksgiving to go.”
Before Bethea went to his car to deliver more turkeys, he stood outside Mid-K and reflected about a moment he’ll never forget from six years past. “I got the phone call that my son was shot standing right here. It was right there.” He pointed across the street. “We’ve got to do good for our community. Whenever I do stuff like this [delivering the turkeys], I think of Scotty and then it’s all worth it. All of it is worth it.”
Then Bethea continued on his route.
“Hey Dougie! Why didn’t you come to my birthday party?” asked Tiffany Baines,as she opened the door to receive the delivery. “I forgive you, Dougie. Thanks for the food. You’re the best.”
Bethea’s delivery route was one of three separate outpourings of turkey generosity in the Dixwell neighborhood Tuesday evening.
At the Dixwell/Newhallville Senior Center on Goffe Street, LEAP, a non-profit academic and social enrichment program for children and youth, was having its annual LEAP Thankful Dinner. Twenty frozen turkeys were given to LEAP participants’ families.
“We started giving out turkeys to kids a few years ago,” said LEAP Development Director Lucy Diaz. “It’s nice to know that kids can now have a turkey to bring home for their own Thanksgiving.” The turkeys were donated by Target, Gozzi Turkey Farm, Big Y, and Edge of the Woods.
Meanwhile, the New Haven Guardians, an association of African-American police officers, gathered at the Masonic Lodge on Goffe Street as they strategized and planned their route for delivering over 100 turkeys. They went over the list of the 50 predesignated needy families. Some families stopped by to pick up their food, while others would have them delivered by one of the Guardians or Masonic Lodge members. An additional 50 turkeys and food would also be delivered to anyone who expressed a need.
Christ Hilgert of NER Construction donated 66 of the turkeys the group delivered. The housing authority also chipped in.
Officer Michelle Dobson, a member of the Guardians, said she feels strongly about supporting the community which she patrols: “It’s a way to build trust and connections, and show that you’re really here to help everyone. New Haven is one big community, and as an officer, we have to work to keep it that way.” Dobson does background checks for incoming police officers; she brought along three recruits to Tuesday evening’s evening. “I want to show them what’s it’s all about. You have to start somewhere, and this is the best way to get people to know who you are to build that trust.”
Ariela Martin, a student at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, is an Independent contributing reporter.