Families that can't afford Thanksgiving dinner don't need to stand in line in the cold at a food bank. Today, people are using Craigslist message boards to invite anonymous needy families and individuals into their homes for a hot, freshly cooked Thanksgiving meal.
Christine Baines, a 46-year-old single mother of two teenagers in Marietta, Georgia, posted an ad on Craigslist over the weekend for a fellow single mother and her kids to join the Baines family for Thanksgiving.
"I am a single parent that is blessed to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner," she wrote in the ad. "I am willing to open my home(townhouse) to another single mother that may be in the same position or one that cannot afford Thanksgiving dinner or a single female that may feel it is not worth cooking for one person. I am inviting single females of any age, race, (one of my children is biracial) single mothers with sons that are no older than 12 or 13, daughters any age."
Baines told HuffPost that she is originally from Gurnee, Illinois, and her family normally has soldiers from the Great Lakes naval base over to celebrate Thanksgiving. Now that she's in Georgia, she thought it might be nice for her 13-year-old son, her 18-year-old daughter and her to open their home to a needy family. The only restrictions? No men, no drugs and no alcohol.
"We are used to having strangers in our home during Thanksgiving," she said. "But I didn't feel comfortable inviting a strange man into my house, since I have two teenagers, and I will not allow smoking or alcohol in my house. I thought I'd take a chance on finding a single mother who works or can't afford to cook for her kids."
So far, Baines said that although she has received five responses to her ad so far, all of them have been men or asked if they could bring men. She plans to leave the ad up on Craigslist until Thursday, just in case it catches the eye of a local single mom.
Tammy C., 37, from Crystal Lake, Ill., said she doesn't use Craigslist very much and has never used it before to invite strangers into her home, but she thought posting an ad for a free Thanksgiving meal and a place to go might be a good way to anonymously help people in need this holiday season.
"I know that responding to a Craigslist ad is a little more confidential than just standing in a line with a bunch of other people, so I thought it would be a good way for someone to step forward and say, 'Yeah, I do need help,'" she told HuffPost. "A lot of people don't want to ask for the assistance, or they're not ready to go to the food pantry and say, 'I need dinner.'"
Tammy, who lives with her husband and 7-year-old son, said she has received about 150 responses to her ad so far, but most of them were members of her local community commending her for offering to open her home to hungry people for Thanksgiving.
"Only three people have committed to coming to dinner so far, and the rest of them actually were all people writing to say, 'We appreciate what you're doing, we don't find people like you in the world anymore,'" she said.
Since it can be difficult to screen people through Craigslist, Tammy said she and her husband made sure to tell all their neighbors about the extra people coming over, including a 22-year-old unemployed man who recently lost the last of his immediate family members. She said she is not really worried about having three strangers in the house.
"We're not nervous about it," she said. "We volunteer in the community a lot, and we're just thankful that we can eat Thanksgiving and have leftovers for a week. There's no reason we can't feed other people. It's a hard holiday to be home alone."