Talking Turkey: How turkey changed Fred’s life

What spurs people to volunteer comes in many different forms. Sometimes it’s the urge to right wrongs, or the need to share the love that overflows from their hearts.

For Fred, it was turkey.

“When I retired, I got a postcard from Phoenix Rescue Mission asking if I would donate a turkey for their Thanksgiving turkey drive.”

Thinking that was a fine idea, he picked up some frozen birds and looked forward to giving a couple of families a brighter Thanksgiving.

But God has a way of multiplying our efforts, sometimes, in ways we could never imagine. Fred didn’t know it, but the simple act of delivering those turkeys would change his life – and, with your help, the lives of hundreds more he hadn’t yet met.

“I brought my turkeys to an open house at the Mission. While I was there, I took a tour and when I saw all the amazing things they did, I told them to sign me up! I put my toe in first. Then my foot and then my leg, then both legs… I’m pretty well submerged now!” Fred says with a laugh.

That was three years ago, and Fred hasn’t looked back since. Today you’ll find him at the front of the line at our Hope for Hunger food bank where, up to five days a week, he’s assisting hundreds of families and individuals who come looking for food and hope.

“We greet them with hugs and smiles and ‘God bless you’s’, which, in our society, you have to be careful where you use that term. But around here, it’s not only allowed, it's encouraged!"

Like other volunteers can attest, service does so much more for Fred than what he feels it does for those he serves. When his friends question the number of hours he’s put in, he just smiles and shares one of the many stories that warm his heart and keep him coming back.

“I’ll never forget, a week or two before Christmas, an elderly gal came in a little apprehensive. She had never been here before. I greeted her and I put my arm on her back and said, ‘Dear, we’ll take good care of you. We’ve got lots of food today and we’ll fill this cart up.’ I watched her go around the circle, filling up the cart, and when she was getting ready to leave, I called out, ‘God bless you and have a Merry Christmas!’ Well, she stopped the line right there, walked over and gave me one of the most sincere hugs I’ve ever had in my life! I’ll never forget that.”

With the holidays approaching, we’ll soon see more families coming through our doors than at any other time of the year. That sobering thought has got Fred thinking. Turkey is what brought him to the Mission and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, turkey is still forefront on his mind.

“It’s an important time for everyone, especially families. Turkeys can feed a family for a good long while. I remember last year, thinking how exciting it was going to be because we were supposed to have 500 turkeys to distribute. When I pulled in to Hope for Hunger that morning, there were at least 300 vehicles outside waiting. To make a long story short, we fell far short of our goal last year.”

Fred is determined not to let that happen this year.

“I’ve already started making contacts to make sure of it. I’d like to get some corporate support and help from individuals and churches. If they could donate 10 or 20 turkeys or whatever they can possibly do, I’ll pick them up and we’ll have a turkey for every family this year. Our goal is 500 turkeys, but maybe we can do more. If so, that’d be wonderful. The need is definitely there.”

The other thing on Fred’s mind is the need for volunteers.

“We have a good crew, we have a lot of fun, there’s a lot of laughing, and a lot of teasing. But we don’t have nearly enough volunteers. You really need 10-12 people per shift back there to make it flow. Last Friday, when there were just four of us, it was tough. It makes it difficult.”

With three two-hour shifts, that’s 30 volunteers a day needed to keep Hope for Hunger humming along. If you’ve never had the opportunity to watch someone’s face light up when you hand them a box of much-needed food, take a moment to join Fred and the crew by visiting our volunteer page at prm.volunteerhub.com and signing up today!