GCU employees lend a hand at turkey giveaway
Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Olga Karaway of Phoenix lost her job this year, amid a host of other setbacks.
“It’s just tough,” she said as she waited in her car Monday to pick up the makings of a Thanksgiving feast from St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix.
“If it weren’t for this food, we’d probably be eating Braunschweiger (liverwurst) sandwiches,” she said.
Joanna Lyons began weeping when asked about her family. Her granddaughter recently became a crime victim, she said, and she and her husband drove from Michigan to offer support while charges are filed.
“It’s a nightmare,” she said.
Alice Humbert, whose wait was made more pleasant by the companionship of her Chihuahua, Daffy, said that without St. Mary’s Food Bank, there would be a very different meal on her Thanksgiving table.
“We’d probably be having potatoes and gravy and a casserole dish with some green beans,” she said, “but probably not the turkey.”
There’s nothing like the promise of a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to make people wake up early. Some pedestrians showed up at 3:30 a.m., Brown said.
About 4,000 Phoenix residents visited St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance on Monday, and for them, the wait was a small price for a huge Thanksgiving feast they otherwise might not be able to provide.
“I asked someone what they would do without this food,” said Lisa Notaro, Chief Development and Community Relations Officer for St. Mary’s Food Bank. “They said they would eat rice and beans, like they do every other night.”
By the time the annual three-day distribution event ends at 11 a.m. Wednesday, more than 12,000 people will have filled their cupboards and refrigerators from the offerings at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, located 2831 N. 31st Ave., Phoenix.
“Everyone gets a turkey, a box of canned goods, a box of produce and a five-gallon bag of potatoes,” said Jerry Brown, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance Director of Media Relations.
Watermelons, cantaloupes, heirloom tomatoes, eggs, stuffing and pies also were handed out.
“The goal is to give that one day of the year – especially if it’s been a rough year – that day when you can sit down with your family around the food,” Brown said. “Thanksgiving really is the holiday of food.”
“There are so many people in need,” Notaro said. “Most of them have at least one job. These truly are the working poor.”
If it takes an army to feed the hungry, then St. Mary’s Food Bank is ground zero for more than 250 volunteers – including staff, faculty and students from Grand Canyon University.
It takes leaders such as Mike Vaught, GCU’s Vice President of Athletics, and Dr. Sherman Elliott, Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. It takes colleagues such as CHSS directors Heidi Vogeny and Adam Eklund, program director Kathy Britton and Kerry Stream.
Also helping were Assistant Athletics directors Renee Gonzalez and Mark Wilty, Deputy Athletics Director Jamie Boggs, Senior Associate Athletics Director Nick Ojea, and Jason Linders, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Development.
It takes people who want to make the world a better place one turkey at a time.
“I like the fact that at St. Mary’s, accepting a gift from others is very humbling,” Elliott said. “We are seeing a variety of families who are willing to allow strangers to fill up their car.”
“There is a lot of gratitude here,” Linders said.
Thousands of turkeys and more than $20,000 in donations were collected on Super Saturday (Nov. 18), when groups such as the GCU baseball team fanned out to 28 Albertsons and Safeway stores across the Valley to encourage contributions.
“The team always does such a great job,” Notaro said. “They bring so much energy and excitement.”
On Monday, volunteers in other strategic roles were dispatched across the property to unpack trucks, direct traffic, organize food items, push carts filled with groceries and unload them swiftly.
Thousands waited for food.
“It makes me so humbled,” Notaro said. “It makes me so sad. The barrier between the poor and food is money. For some of these families, if they have to buy new tires for their car, it’s enough to put them over the edge.”
For Chuck Bellew and Vernita, his wife of 47 years, St. Mary’s Food Bank fills a crucial gap.
“We are totally retired,” said Bellew, a Vietnam-era veteran. “This means the world to us.”
GCU’s Annual Turkey Drive is still in high gear. It’s not too late for GCU employees to donate turkeys. Here’s how:
- Now – With every $10 contributed, you earn a Turkey Ticket and St. Mary’s Food Bank can provide food for 70 meals. Pono Construction promised to match the first 350 donations from GCU. Donate here or by contacting Debbie Accomazzo, Leigh Crichtley or Jackie Smith on the main campus. If you work at 27th Avenue, contact Boyle, Vanessa Garcia (second-third floors), Haley Bliss, Ashley Nogales (third floor) or Mandy Edin (fourth floor).
- Through Wednesday – GCU employees can join other community supporters in distributing turkeys with all the trimmings at St. Mary’s Food Bank. To volunteer, email Accomazzo, Community Outreach Manager. Volunteer hours are HR approved for Community Service Time.
- Nov. 28 – The 2017 campaign will wrap up on Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.
- Nov. 29 – All participants will be entered for a chance to win courtside seats for a GCU men’s basketball game (date TBA).
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].