The holiday bustle has already set in at the Rosauers store on Sprague and University in Spokane Valley.
With Thanksgiving less than a week away, the rush for turkeys and all the fixings is something store manager Jim Dailey is accustomed to this time of year.
Only this weekend, Dailey is anticipating a different slant on the usual hectic procession through the grocery aisle – this one with an emphasis on giving.
A program called “Tom’s Turkey Drive” has been part of the seasonal tradition in Spokane County for the past 11 years, providing Thanksgiving food for the less fortunate through a unique arrangement with area Rosauers stores. Shoppers can purchase a bag of holiday food – including a turkey, vegetables, cranberry sauce, gravy and more – all for only $15. The items are then passed along to local food banks where they are distributed to families and individuals.
Spokane Valley Food Bank Director Connie Nelson (left) chats with Ilene Benham of Peace Lutheran Church after Benham donated a turkey and other food items on Tuesday. Nelson is anticipating to hand out 1,200 holiday dinners at its annual Thanksgiving distribution next Monday and Tuesday. Photo by Craig Howard
“It’s a real bargain for everyone,” said Dailey. “It seems like every year, it just gets better. I think it’s just Spokane. I’ve never seen a community go out of their way more to donate to the disadvantaged.”
Sponsors and donors help offset the costs for the bags, typically with a retail value of well over $50. The namesake of the drive – KREM 2 chief meteorologist Tom Sherry – helps promote the cause by appearing at area stores. After dropping by the Spokane Valley Rosauers the last several years, Sherry will be at the South Hill site on 29th Avenue this weekend.
Dailey said it is not uncommon to have a business purchase 10 to 15 bags for the cause. Some individuals simply donate money for the campaign. Last year, residents contributed over 2,500 bags, making it one of the most successful drives ever. This year’s program will run from 5 a.m. to midnight, this Friday (today) and Saturday.
“Last year, I thought it would be down, but it wasn’t,” Dailey said. “I think everyone in the store feels like they’ve accomplished something. It feels good to know you’ve helped people.”
In November 2005, Vance and Ronda Emerson decided to sponsor a free Thanksgiving dinner at the Otis Grill, a restaurant they had purchased the year before. Vance remembers the idea as “a way to give back to the community.” Over 100 people showed up at the homey Otis Orchards café for what has become a local tradition ever since.
This year, the complimentary meal will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the grill, located at 21902 E. Wellesley in Otis Orchards. Any donations will be forwarded to a Christmas fund benefiting families at Otis Orchards Elementary.
“It’s about doing the right thing for the right reason, not for a pat on the back,” Vance said. “It’s the feeling of knowing you’re helping people who need help.”
Joe Ingalls has spent Thanksgiving morning for the past several years delivering food to homebound residents as a volunteer driver with Spokane Valley Meals on Wheels. Ingalls brings relatives along to help with the task, hours before the family meal in the evening.
Ingalls said folks along his route are appreciative of the turkey dinner and the opportunity to visit.
“People get a nice meal,” he said. “Most times we’re the only people they see the entire day.”
The Spokane Valley Food Bank will welcome around 1,200 clients next Monday and Tuesday as part of its annual Thanksgiving distribution. Food Bank Director Connie Nelson said the donation of items from projects at Central Valley and University high schools is expected to generate around 32,000 pounds of food.
While the parade of food has been steady leading up to the holidays, Nelson and other food bank officials make it clear that stocking the shelves is a year-round task. Currently, the food bank is in need of volunteers to sort and distribute the food next week. Nelson added that there is a also a severe shortage of grocery carts.
Second Harvest of the Inland Northwest is providing most of the turkeys for next week’s allocation, though residents like Ilene Benham have been stopping by the food bank with their own holiday contributions. Benham donated food on Tuesday as part of the “Lutheran Challenge,” an annual Thanksgiving program involving half-a-dozen Lutheran churches in the Spokane Valley area.
“I’ve been in a place before where the food bank has helped me,” Behnam said. “I think when you’re able to give back you should help.”
Want to find out more?
To learn about volunteer opportunities at the Valley Food Bank, call 928-7769. The Union Gospel Mission is also conducting a fall food drive. To help, call 535-8510 or visit www.ugmspokane.org.