VALPARAISO | The 500 Turkeys program continues to grow since launching in 2009 as a way to help local families have a Thanksgiving meal with all of the trimmings.
“This year we will be blessing 800 families with a meal. Our meal will include a turkey, roasting pan, gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, carrots, cranberries, yams, Jell-O, brownie mix, salt and pepper and cornbread,” said 500 Turkeys founder and coordinator Jeni Bolton. “Each family will also receive a mini cookbook with some of our favorite recipes.”
The initiative, a ministry of Life Bridge Christian Church, brings together community members who help collect, organize, box and deliver meal items as well as help host fund-raisers.
“As we continue to expand our offerings to more families it takes more food - and even more volunteers - to make it happen. Nearly 23,000 items will be distributed this year to the 800 families. The area we would be blessed with the most is with volunteers,” Bolton said.
She accepted the challenge to help local families after attending a conference.
“In 2009, I attended a Youth for Christ conference as a leader from our church. I choose to take a ‘Kingdom Worker’ envelope. I prayed about it, opened it and it read: ‘Raise enough food and funds to feed 500 families for Thanksgiving.’ Wow!” she said. “Since then, this ministry has grown and helps more families and individuals each year. The need continues to grow and the 500 Turkeys Ministry Team puts forth a combined effort to pull our mission off each year.”
The team’s efforts continue to add up as the group helps more individuals.
“We estimate we are serving a family of four with each meal. Some meals go to families with less, some to more, but in the end we average about four. That would put our total served at 3,200 individuals receiving Thanksgiving dinner this year,” Bolton said. “In all since 2009, including this year, we estimate that we were able to serve 3,700 meals or 15,000 individuals.”
This year, the group also launched a new ministry, Clothes & Prayers, that recycles and gives away free clothing to meal recipients.
“We hope to expand this to more than once a year in 2015,” she said.