Annual Thanksgiving turkey drive helps hundreds in Delaware (photos)

More than 3,500 turkeys were donated as part of Nor Enterprises 34th annual Turkey Give Away.



Wilmington Police escorted trucks filled with thousands of frozen turkeys and bags of side dishes, like stuffing and cornbread mixes, as they maneuvered around Wilmington before traveling to other counties in Delaware.

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Dozens of volunteers unpacked the donated food, and handed them to seniors and families at multiple stops throughout the state.

“It’s great, because then I can save without having to buy all the turkey, plus the stuffing and all that other stuff. Sometimes it might not be available for me to buy it because of expense,” said Carolyn Bailey, a senior resident at Sacred Heart in Wilmington.

“I’m just grateful people can find it in their hearts to see we, senior citizens, can get something without having to worry about where the next money’s coming from. A lot of times our medication, even though we have medical insurance, medication is expensive.”

Tuesday marked the 34th annual Turkey Give Away, sponsored by Nor Enterprises and Our Youth Inc., which has provided food to thousands of seniors and families in Delaware who might otherwise go hungry on Thanksgiving.

This year, an estimated 250 volunteers handed out 3,500 turkeys to families from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware in Seaford, Milford, Georgetown, Dover, Smyrna and Newark, and to 13 senior assisted buildings in Wilmington.

Last year the event donated 3,000 turkeys, feeding more than 30,000 individuals. In the past 10 years, the event has fed about 75,000 individuals.

Event organizer Norman Oliver first started feeding homeless individuals on the street. But as years went by, individuals and organizations started donating hundreds of turkeys to help his cause, and now his event is a large statewide undertaking.

“Don’t you see me smiling? It’s incredible,” Oliver said as he walked from one highrise to the next in Wilmington. “You know what makes me smile? The seniors and the people we give to.”

Jeff Bodnar, a store manager at Food Lion, said his grocery store donated more than 1,600 turkeys for this year’s event, worth about $45,000.

“It makes you feel good,” he said. “You want to help the community in any way you can. We get to see the same people we donate these turkeys to come in and shop at our stores, so we’re actually helping the people who shop in our stores.”

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware, which serve about 30,000 school age youth and families during the holidays, has been involved in the event for three years.

“We help those who need help the most,” said Lisa Lynch, director of teen services. “Ninety percent of our families and youth we serve come from single-parent households, so it is a good time for us to help them have a happy Thanksgiving.”

United Healthcare also provided 1,600 bags of food for the giveaway, and 200 turkeys.

“United Healthcare is about helping people live healthier lives. We’re the largest health insurance company in the nation and we have almost 90,000 Medicaid members in the state of Delaware—a lot of them which suffer from food insecurities,” said Angelica Hardin, director of operations and outreach.

“For us, giving them a turkey, helping them with healthy fixings for their meal, is something we do as a company to help people live healthier lives.”

Several individuals also attend the event year after year, including Coby Owens, who has been involved for 11 years.

“It’s early sometimes, it’s cold, we’ve even had snow a few times, but it’s all worth it at the end of the day seeing smiles on everyone’s faces,” he said. “It’s not always about yourself, it’s always about giving back to others. It’s helped shape who I am today.”

Several city, state and national political leaders attended the Wilmington portion of the giveaway, including City Councilwoman-elect Zanthia Oliver, Wilmington City Council President-elect Hanifa Shabazz, Wilmington Mayor-elect Mike Purzycki, State Rep. Stephanie Bolden, U.S. Congresswoman-elect Lisa Blunt Rochester and Governor-elect John Carney.

“It really is a tremendous indication on how special our community is, willing to give to those less fortunate and this is a time we have to thank God for our blessings and give to others,” Carney said.

John Teoli, CEO of the Luther Towers senior residency complex, said the giveaway is important to his residents because it lets them know someone cares about them.

“It’s always an important event for the seniors,” he said. “A lot of them are low-income, and for a lot of them, this is all they have for family.”

Steven Topp, one of the residents at Luther Towers, said if it wasn’t for the donation he wouldn’t have a turkey—and he looks forward to sharing it with his family.

“It’s a gift,” he said. “It’s great people are looking out to help the older. It makes me feel good, people appreciate what you have done.”

Recipient Barbara Crummel, a resident at Windsor Apartments, said her turkey will be a delicious addition to her “to die for” macaroni and cheese.

“It gives me a nice turkey dinner and I really appreciate it, because when you’re on a fixed income sometimes you don’t have the extra money to get some of the things you need, and this is such a wonderful way of allowing us to have a really nice Thanksgiving,” she said.

Oliver said one in eight Delaware families suffer from hunger—which is why it’s important to continue efforts to feed seniors and families.

“Let’s keep growing to everybody,” he said. “Not just Thanksgiving—throughout the year we can help them.”

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