I didn’t want to get up this morning, I will admit it. It was cold outside, raining and we spent 3 hours begging for candy the night before. My feet hurt, my head hurt, the bed was really warm, I sneezed…. I had lots of excuses. However, the reality was… today is Turkey Box sign up day.
This day represents the beginning of the crazy holiday season at The Family Center, in the next two months, we will see more people than we see all year between turkey boxes, Santa’s workshop, food and financial assistance. It represents sleepless nights, unending phone calls, desperate cries for help in a time that is already full of stress.
But I got up, people needed us and the turkey box program is a way for us to serve 400 families… yes, I said 400.
We started this program a few years ago, there were lots of churches and agencies that provided a cooked meal to those in need but we wanted to fill a different hole. We wanted to provide an opportunity for families to gather around the kitchen, prepare a meal for their loved ones and to feel… well, like everyone else during this holiday season.
I blame this wonderful community… The first year, our goal was 40 boxes, the community gave over 70. The next year we went to 100 boxes, the community gave over 170. The next year we did 200, the community gave over 350. So we went to 400, and we will stop there… for now.
We take names for 400 families and the community brings us 400 boxes… it is as easy as that right?
Not quite. Lets start with the 400 families. We will take applications for two weeks, we will tell everyone we know, ask everyone we can and make sure everyone knows about this program. All you have to do to sign up is fill out a quick application, have an ID and a Maury County residence. But I have one rule, you can’t be on anyone else’s list. One turkey per address.
I have become the turkey box police when it comes to this. One year, we signed up 200 people in 3 days and I had to turn people away. When you have to tell a working single mother of 2 that she cant have a turkey box because she didn’t sign up fast enough it is heart breaking. That same year we found 90 people were signed up on another list as well. They would get two boxes and she would have none. Luckily we caught it in time and were able to serve all who applied that year. One box per address now… and we check. No exceptions! I will delete you from our excel spreadsheet if I find you on another list! No Family Center turkey box for you!
Then there are the “shifters” people who shift plans…. “Can I pick up my box early?”, “Can I pick up my box the next week?” “Can my brother’s sister’s nephew’s second cousin’s roommate come pick my turkey box up?”
It takes a lot of organization and reorganization and no matter how careful we are, there will be at least 5 missing applications. But we get everyone registered, settle our “shifter’s” schedules and get ready. We put coloring pages and kid’s activities in each box as well, we want this to be a family event.
Then there is the traffic… Last year all 400 people were in line to get their turkey box before we opened. Our neighboring businesses were none too happy with us… the police were called. It was not good. (we have a better plan for this year, no lineup I promise).
Now lets talk about the turkeys, have you ever seen 400 turkeys in the same place? We also give all the fixings like corn, green beans, cranberries, dessert, yams and marshmallows as well! It is a sight let me tell you! Some boxes will come early, we will fill our chest freezers, commercial freezers, personal freezers… Children will bring them in with their parents, churches will back a truck up full of food, civic agencies, banks, county offices…. It is such a wonderful outpouring of support. We will have turkeys in the bathtub, closets, conference rooms. Turkeys everywhere! Some boxes will come without a turkey, some will only have the turkey. One box will have 8 cans of cranberries, another box wont have any. So we go through and check them, I want everyone to get the same things.
And we count!
We count turkeys and boxes… we count and recount. “We have 268 turkeys? Are you sure? Two more came in….we need to count again”. 300 boxes… really? It seems like more, did you get the boxes in Cathy’s office? Count again! We have a dry erase board we use to count and under “number of turkeys” one volunteer wrote “a million”. That was neither funny nor helpful.
But it is so important we have enough for everyone, there is no way I can look someone in the eye and say, “Sorry, we didn’t get enough this year”.
All this craziness is worth it on the day we pass out the boxes (November 17th this year). We get tears from parents, hugs from strangers, smiles from the children. And even though we are completely exhausted by the time the last turkey leaves the building and to even think about cooking a Thanksgiving meal for our own families leaves makes us groan, we know it is all worth it. We help 400 families understand the blessings of this wonderful community. 400 families have something to be thankful for and can share a meal with their loved ones without having to worry about how to afford it. We touch the lives of those that give and those that receive in a way that I cannot express in this blog.
But we are so thankful for the opportunity to do this, to have another way we can help those in need in our community. To put food on the tables of 400 families this Thanksgiving. The blessings we receive through our turkey box giveaway is overwhelming. So I got up this morning…. two cups of coffee and we have hit the ground running… fast!
With all that said, I would be amiss if I didn’t make a plea for help through this blog. 400 turkeys do not come easy, we need everyone to chip in and help us make this happen. If you would like to donate a turkey box please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the details. You can also donate funds and we can purchase the items for you and we need volunteers on the 16th and 17th to count and distribute!
So as you make your Thanksgiving plans this year, think about your neighbors at 921 S Beckett Street, think about the 400 families we will serve this year (and possibly more). Think about the impact we will make in your community and smile, count your blessing and say a few prayers for us these next two months!
This is giving… this is community… this is Maury!