Couple uses food from canceled wedding to feed 200 people on Thanksgiving

Like many weddings this year, Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis’ nuptials didn’t go as planned. Because of coronavirus restrictions, the couple decided to get married at City Hall in Chicago instead of having a big ceremony. And instead of taking the deposits for their reception back, they decided to repurpose them. 

The couple put their $5,000 worth of reception food to a good use on Thanksgiving, according to a local charity. Bugg and Lewis donated the 200 meals to Thresholds, an organization that provides services and resources for people with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders in Illinois. 

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Emily Bugg packing Thanksgiving meals for Thresholds clients.

Thresholds


Bugg is an outreach worker with the nonprofit, which helps people dealing with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression, according to the organization.

Thresholds usually holds a communal Thanksgiving dinner for clients, but it was canceled due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions. Instead, Bugg and Lewis’ wedding caterer, Big Delicious Planet, put the couple’s $5,000 deposit to use to prepare special Thanksgiving meals for delivery.

The caterers worked alongside Threshold staff members to box individual meals, which where then delivered to the client’s homes. Big Delicious Planet cooked turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and other Thanksgiving staples. 

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200 individual meals were provided to  clients, whose Thanksgiving meal through Threshold was originally cancelled due to the pandemic.

Thresholds


The couple’s wedding venue, Salvage One, also agreed to repurpose their deposit for a future event for the Epilepsy Foundation. 

“In the grand scheme of things, canceling a big wedding isn’t the worst thing that could happen,” Bugg said. “We’re happy to be married, and we’re so happy that we could help Thresholds’ clients feel the connection of a Thanksgiving meal as a result of the wedding cancellation.”

Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug said the couple’s donation is “an incredible example of the generosity and creativity that the pandemic has inspired in so many.”

“I know that Emily’s act of kindness will inspire others to do the same and build love and connection in a difficult time, in any way we can. Thresholds is so grateful for our staff, like Emily, who are so dedicated to their work serving those with mental illnesses,” he said.

The couple’s wedding may have been canceled, but their generosity helped bring many others joy on Thanksgiving.

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Couple uses catering deposit from canceled wedding to feed 200 people on Thanksgiving

Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis got married at City Hall amid COVID-19.

Emily Bugg, 33, and Billy Lewis, 34, used their $5,000 nonrefundable deposit to purchase 200 Thanksgiving dinners for clients of Thresholds, a nonprofit mental health provider dedicated to helping people with serious mental illnesses and substance use conditions.

“In the grand scheme of things, canceling a big wedding isn’t the worst thing that could happen,” Bugg, an outreach worker at Thresholds, told “Good Morning America.” ” We’re happy to be married, and we’re so happy that we could help Thresholds’ clients feel the connection of a Thanksgiving meal as a result of the wedding cancellation.”

Bugg and Lewis were married Oct. 1st at City Hall in Chicago. The couple met on the dating app Bumble in 2017.

PHOTO: Emily Bugg, 33, and Billy Lewis, 34, used their $5,000 nonrefundable catering deposit for 200 Thanksgiving dinners. The recipients were clients of Thresholds, a nonprofit mental health provider.

When COVID-19 disrupted their initial wedding gathering, Bugg and Lewis decided to team up with their with caterer, Big Delicious Planet, to make Thanksgiving dinners for Thresholds clients. The meals included turkey, vegetables and mashed potatoes.

Bugg and Lewis’s venue, Salvage One, agreed to put their deposit toward a future event for the Epilepsy Foundation, which is another cause to which Bugg is connected.

Thresholds’ yearly communal Thanksgiving dinners were canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Emily’s donation is an incredible example of the generosity and creativity that the pandemic has inspired in so many,” said Mark Ishaug, CEO of Thresholds. “I know that Emily’s act of kindness will inspire others to do the same and build love and connection in a difficult time, in any way we can.”

“Thresholds is so grateful for our staff, like Emily, who are so dedicated to their work serving those with mental illnesses,” he added.

Thresholds staff boxed the meals with caterers, and then Thresholds staff delivered the meals to clients’ homes ahead of the holiday.

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Miami to distribute $250 gift cards to feed hungry residents

The city of Miami will be giving out $250 gift cards next month to residents who can’t afford groceries, as more Americans struggle to put food on the table due to widespread unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The rise in Americans’ food insecurity

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Marking the latest local effort to combat a surge in hunger amid the pandemic, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez tweeted on Tuesday that Publix gift cards would be handed out December 1. To get a gift card, families must present proof of residence in Miami and a signed application saying they’ve suffered financial hardships due to COVID-19. The gift cards will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The number of families struggling to buy food has grown since the start of the pandemic, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis data show. Rising hunger has hit families with children and women of color particularly hard.

All told, more than 50 million Americans will face hunger this year, according to Feeding America projections. That translates to 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 4 children. Families in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi have seen the sharpest rise in hunger, the nonprofit organization said. 

Gift cards in Miami are just one way cities are trying to feed needy residents. Denver gave grants of up to $50,000 to its local nonprofits and food pantries while Seattle passed out $800 grocery store vouchers to 6,250 families. 

Rising unemployment has put food banks in high demand as families flock to their facilities for meals. The North Texas Food Bank told CBS News that volunteers are serving 10 million meals a month.

“History tells us that we can expect to see this elevated need for at least the next two years,” the food bank’s chief external affairs officer Erica Yeager said.

Hungry families existed long before the health crisis struck, but the pandemic has pushed more people into food insecurity, Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot said in a statement. 

Anti-hunger advocates say the key to reducing hunger is boosting the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. Congress has taken steps to do so in March, when the Families First Coronavirus Response Act added funding to the food stamp program. Lawmakers later extended the boost until September 2021. 

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Chicago couple cancel wedding reception, use catering deposit to feed others for Thanksgiving

Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis had been planning a big wedding in a funky West Town warehouse, with catered food and 150 guests coming in from both coasts and lots of places in between.

But then the pandemic did what it’s done to so many giddy couples — it wrecked those elaborate plans.

“It just didn’t feel like it was in the cards,” said Bugg, 33, who lives in the Avondale neighborhood.

So last month, Bugg and Lewis, 34, decided to tie the knot anyway, alone, except for their photographer, before a judge on the 13th floor of the Daley Center. Bugg left her $1,400 wedding dress in the closet, choosing a simple white dress instead, as they made their way through the first-floor metal detector to the elevator and then to the courtroom.

With no guests, there would be no reception and no food — not for them at least. Bugg and her new husband decided that wouldn’t mean no celebration.

Bugg supervises a team of community outreach workers for Thresholds, a Chicago-based nonprofit that offers a range of services for people with serious mental illnesses.

Every year, Thresholds organizes big Thanksgiving gatherings for its clients. That couldn’t happen this year because of the pandemic.

“Our members look forward to the Thanksgiving party every year. So when they started asking when it would be and what would happen, that’s when the wheels started to turn,” Bugg said.

The couple persuaded their caterer, Big Delicious Planet, to use their $5,000 deposit to instead package up 200 Thanksgiving meals, including turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and cranberry sauce. Bugg and some of her co-workers personally delivered those meals last week to 200 Thresholds clients at their homes on the West Side.

The couple’s generosity was first reported by The Washington Post.

“She took what could have been a really sad situation for herself, her husband and her family and she turned it into something magical and beautiful,” said Bugg’s boss, Mark Ishaug, Thresholds CEO.

Or as Bugg puts it: “Even while we were disappointed, we realized we still have so much. Canceling a wedding compared to what other people were going through wasn’t as big a deal.”

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