Operation Turkey A Huge Success

Operation Turkey A Huge Success

ACTS' largest annual food drive, Operation Turkey, ran from November 1st through the 18th this year, and during that time, the Food Pantry served over 700 families, giving out 1,049 Operation Turkey bags, each weighing about 12 lbs.  The pantry distributed a total of 59,427 pounds of food, of which 11,388 pounds consisted of Thanksgiving staples such as stuffing mixes, vegetables, and pie ingredients.  In addition, each family received a $10 gift card from a local grocer to put towards the purchase of a turkey. Starting in October, nearly 200 volunteers assisted with this year’s drive by sorting, bagging and distributing Thanksgiving meals.  These volunteers included groups of families and friends, military groups, high school athletes, area businesses and Girl Scouts. There were also two large food drives that supported Operation Turkey this year, and these came from Prince William County area schools and Boy Scouts of America’s “Scouting for Food" program, which donated the most at around 36,000 pounds.  

The most notable aspect to this year's Operation Turkey food drive could all be summed up by Ben Sheedy, ACTS' Maintenance Specialist, who said, "It was a year-long process, and it didn't happen overnight." In recent years, Operation Turkey has lasted for three to four days near the end of the month. Past clients were given appointment cards of when to appear at ACTS to receive food, but after years of lost cards, long lines, and gridlocked traffic on Main Street, a change needed to be made. In August, Madelyn Ramos (Chief Program Office for Human Services), Karoyln Ruiz, (Emergency Assistance Program Supervisor), Ben Sheedy, Jane Anderson (Volunteer Coordinator) and Bryana Shevlin (previous food pantry manager) held a meeting to discuss how Operation Turkey could be the most effective this year and could solve problems from previous years. It was decided that the event could last for the majority of the month of November, which would decrease traffic and provide more families Thanksgiving meals.

When Melissa Napora (current Food Pantry Manager) started in September, which is the busiest month at the Food Pantry in regards to preparation for Operation Turkey, she immediately started the process for distribution. Ms. Napora stated:

"Although it was hectic and busy, it was a team effort that made it happen.  Everyone worked for a greater cause and that includes those who donated. Ben and Jane did all of the sorting in addition to all the volunteers, and they were all as cheerful as they could be about it. They continuously received donations. They consistently donated their time. It was an organized team effort, and everyone was happy to help out. Many hands make light work and this Operation Turkey emulates that. The community pulled together, [and] we were a conduit for all the donations to be distributed. Everything that was donated was done so from the heart. The homeless were fed, the needy were fed. It was an awesome experience." Mr. Sheedy then followed by saying, "Starting next week, we will be starting up the process for next year."

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However, food donations didn't end on the last day of Operation Turkey. On Friday, November 25th, Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center celebrated their annual tree lighting event while benefiting ACTS' food pantry in the process. The "ticket" for a horse-drawn carriage ride was a canned good donation to ACTS, and 700-800 people each made a donation and enjoyed a ride on one of four beautifully decorated carriages.  ACTS also received $341 in monetary donations from shoppers who were searching for Black Friday deals at Stonebridge's stores. Perfect weather contributed to a night of wonderful memories for families, volunteers and the horses seemed to have a pretty good time too!

Operation Turkey has tangible and intangible benefits throughout the community.  Our first task is to provide nutritious Thanksgiving meals to families who might not otherwise be able to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Some of the intangible benefits to clients, volunteers and staff are the feeling of common celebration (a Thanksgiving theme), the feelings of caring for and being cared for by others in your community.  ACTS’ Food Pantry has the good fortune of being set up in such a way that the staff, volunteers and clients have a lot of interaction during meal distribution, allowing close personal interaction, forming a close bond.


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