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  • Sue Smith Romero

Turkey Giveaway Serves 800

More families than ever enjoyed help with their Thanksgiving feast

A long line of people wearing masks and standing six feet apart stretched down the sidewalk on Bleeker Street on November 20. Fortunately, a clear sky and temperatures in the upper 50s kept everyone comfortable as they waited to redeem their special tickets for the 10th annual Utica Food Pantry turkey giveaway. Earlier in the month, the UFP and other local agencies had issued tickets to close to 200 families that they serve.

Thankful for Your Help

Cherise stood in the line with her grandchild tucked snuggly into a stroller. Though she’s a regular visitor to the UFP, she said this was her first time taking advantage of the Thanksgiving giveaway. Living on disability insurance with her daughter who lost her job in March due to COVID, Cherise said the pandemic had impacted her life quite a lot. She moved to Utica three years ago from New York City and had lost 15 friends and relatives there to the coronavirus.

“I really appreciate [the UFP] because there’s not a lot of places helping out nowadays with things, you know,” she said. Adding to her list of things she was grateful for this Thanksgiving, she said, “It’s a beautiful day, for one, and the line is going fast. I’m happy.”

Velvet had just picked up her turkey along with a grocery bag full of ingredients for a fine feast. “I like Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite holidays,” she said, adding that this year, she’s especially thankful for her family and being alive. A monthly visitor to the UFP since COVID ended her daycare job, Velvet said she’s thankful also for the food pantry. “I love it!”

Cherise and Velvet were just two of the 800 individuals who received a turkey and meal fixings this year. Thanks to you and the many other generous donors who contributed to make this year’s turkey giveaway, the biggest giveaway yet.

Keeping Everyone Safe

Beginning with a blessing by Rev. Mary Webster of the First Baptist Church in New Hartford, the event went smoothly even with the COVID precautions in place.

“Basically our goal was not just to give everybody a Thanksgiving dinner but to keep everybody safe,” said UFP president Russ Brooks. “We feel we’ve met all the CDC guidelines on masks and social distancing. We keep on top of that.”

Outpouring of Generosity

He added that this year’s donations exceeded all expectations. In all, the community provided 400 frozen turkeys, including 100 from the Oneida County Sheriff's Department, which were provided by Smith Packing and Trinity Foods. Side dishes, desserts, and more were donated by Hannaford Supermarkets, Napoli Bakery, Pepperidge Farms, Northstar Orchards, and hundreds of community residents. Hayner Hoyt, the construction company now building the new Nexis Center in Utica, donated a check for $10,000.

The generous citizens of our community really came together this year to make sure our most vulnerable neighbors could enjoy Thanksgiving too. And they were grateful for it.

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