Friday after Thanksgiving is that wonderful lost day between the crowded house on Thursday — cooking, eating and football — and the regular weekend. It’s one of my favorite moments during the end-of-year string of holidays. I always spend it in the same place. In Texas with family, sitting at the kitchen table doing the crossword with my grandfather, scribbling down recipes from my grandmother and arguing about politics with my dad.

My grandmother is too bird-boned fragile to go shopping with the rest of the crowds. Instead, we drink coffee and let the last of the leaves fall outside. If we venture outside at all, it’s because I’ve talked them into getting my favorite late breakfast of pecan waffles and grits at Waffle House.

I have another favorite moment from this time of year. Truckloads of Black Friday sales inserts back up to the dock at the newspaper. The production crew sorts and organizes them onto pallets. We print sections early to act as jackets to hold a dozen or so inserts each. At last count, we had about 50 inserts — more than 750 pages of sales.

Every year, I wander back into the warehouse a couple times, just to witness the growing stacks. It’s probably a newspaper editor’s equivalent of standing back and admiring the tree. One-ton rolls of newsprint are pushed the edges of the warehouse and hundreds of pallets full of advertising fill the floor. The day after Thanksgiving, the same room is empty. The production crews and carriers exhale, sit down and realize how tired their bodies are after the crunch.

One of the sections we are printing early — that you’ll read when you pick up your Thursday paper — is our annual Wish List program section. For a decade now, the Quad-City Times has partnered with the United Way to identify needs in the Quad-Cities. It started as a program to make sure that children who were sleeping on the floor had a bed. Since then, it’s expanded as we learned that those same children have other needs — socks, books, a winter coat.

Last December, I was looking through applications before attending the allocations committee meeting, and I read the story of a 10-year-old boy who moved around from house to house with his mom and needed “a few things” to make his life easier. He had no toys. Would we consider buying him a couple toys? He had no books. Could we spare some money for a few books he could call his own? And the list continued. He needed a bed. He needed socks and some clothes. We were able to get all those things for him, and it costs just a few hundred dollars.

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In all, we gave out $23,572 in shoes, beds, winter coats and other small things. The amazing thing to me, as someone who had just moved to the Quad-Cities last year, was that every penny came from our readers. We published stories about the needs, and people gave. It was a great first impression of the spirit of this place and of the power of what a newspaper can do to help those in need.

This year’s Wish List section is beautifully done. The photographers spent a lot of time with a people we wrote about, and the result is some great storytelling. We expanded the section to 16 pages to tell eight stories, and the photos will give you a very real look into the lives and homes of those we wrote about.

The Thanksgiving paper will be available at all retail locations that are open on Thanksgiving, as well as at QC Mart locations throughout the weekend. I attached a list of locations, in the Quad-Cities and Muscatine, to the online version of this column at qctimes.com. Or call 888-406-6450 to subscribe and have it delivered to your home.

Autumn Phillips is the executive editor of the Quad-City Times and qctimes.com. 563-383-2264; qphillips@qctimes.com; on Twitter @autumnedit.

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