TurkeyFest delivers record 1,562 Thanksgiving meals to those in need
TurkeyFest Celebrates 30 Years
TurkeyFest Celebrates 30 Years
Nov 24, 2021
Volunteer Deb Grady will arrive at the Kroc Center by 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning – something she’s been doing every Thanksgiving for more than two decades. Grady coordinates 20 or so volunteers from Heartland Pioneers, many of whom worked for Western Electric, AT&T and CommScope and have been helping to prepare Thanksgiving meals for TurkeyFest since its inception in 1991.
Originally called the Telephone Pioneers of America, the group focused on a variety of community service projects. In the early days of their partnership with The Salvation Army, Telephone Pioneers volunteers cooked the turkeys in their own home kitchens and then delivered them to The Salvation Army on Thursday morning to be delivered to older adults later that day.
In 1991, TurkeyFest volunteers delivered 40 meals. This year The Salvation Army anticipates that 1,200 Thanksgiving dinners will be distributed to older adults in Omaha.
“I love the camaraderie, everyone doing their part and in tune with one another,” said Grady, who prepares Thanksgiving dinner for her own family on Wednesday so she is free to help out at TurkeyFest on Thanksgiving morning. “And we have fun! We enjoy ourselves back there in the kitchen.”
Grady retired in 2011 from Connectivity Solutions Manufacturing, a former division of CommScope, where she worked in the print shop. But she has stayed in touch with many of her colleagues through TurkeyFest.
“It’s a nice opportunity to see people that we don’t ordinarily connect with except at this time of the year,” she said.
Grady doesn’t have plans to step down from her TurkeyFest duties anytime soon. “I’ve made mashed potatoes for TurkeyFest for more years than I can count,” she said. “It’s just part of my Thanksgiving tradition.”
Omaha Man Spends Nearly 30 Thanksgivings Giving Back To The Community
By Ashly Richardson
Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 1:53 PM CST|Updated: 20 hours ago
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Thanksgiving is a day Doug Thoms holds near to his heart.
For three decades he has been volunteering for the Salvation Army’s Turkey Fest.
“I’ve been involved in turkey fest in one way or another from washing dishes to cutting turkeys, from washing the peas or string beans doing the mash potatoes. Just about anything they need me to do, I do,” said Thoms.
Doug is part of a much larger tradition. It started 30 years ago with workers from the Western Electric phone company.
The group is called the pioneers and Doug is one of the many that continues to carry on the tradition even after the company closed its doors in Omaha.
“It closed about 10 years ago so the volunteers are still going on and doing what we’ve always done. We won’t let stop us,” said Thoms.
Today they are helping to dish out nearly 1,200 meals to those in need. The process works like an assembly line and once it’s boxed up, it gets delivered.
“It will go all over to individual residences that can’t get out. So the people that are in wheelchairs or shut-ins, that are sick or whatever reason. That’s one of the criteria so it’s delivered to house and nursing homes,” said Kevin Newlin, Turkey Fest Chef.
The Salvation Army says the need has grown this year because of the pandemic. And with more people needing a warm meal this holiday, Doug says it’s as important as ever to give back to the community.
“I always say that it takes a village and it does take a village. We look at this as not an I, I situation but a we situation. We need to get out and help people that are less fortunate than us.”