During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, 150 Wake Forest students, faculty, and staff volunteers prepared and delivered 400 traditional made-from-scratch Thanksgiving dinners to food-insecure local residents during Turkeypalooza, an annual event hosted by The Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest University. Since opening its ovens in 2006, the campus service group has distributed more than 60,000 meals.
“I feel privileged to share this special time of year with those in need because Turkeypalooza reminds me to give thanks for family and health, things we often take for granted,” said Oriana Wright, a junior biology major from Austin, Texas.
The 33 students on The Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest leadership board were especially thankful this Turkeypalooza because they hit their fundraising goal to offset the cost of the local and organic turkeys they cook throughout the week.
And, the Wake Forest community collected enough green beans and cranberry sauce before the Turkeypalooza kick-off to ensure the turkeys could be served with side dishes.
Many meals were taken to families supported by SECU Family House, an agency serving those with loved ones in the hospital. A home cooked meal can provide a sense of normalcy during the holidays, said Shelley Sizemore, assistant director of campus life and services.
During this time of thanks, Turkeypalooza also raises awareness about food insecurity in the community. The effort is coordinated with national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
Madison LeCroy, a senior and co-coordinator at The Campus Kitchen, admits it is easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities, and forget how many people in the local community are hungry.
“I got involved with Campus Kitchen because it is important to be an advocate to get involved in the fight against hunger,” said LeCroy. “Through Pro Humanitate, Wake Forest has the opportunity to bring people together by serving our community. To see the grateful reactions from those we serve – for a warm, delicious meal – is what makes this season special.”
Junior Margaret Raney helped as a shift leader during Turkeypalooza. She was most thrilled to see peers volunteer for the first time.
“The great thing about Turkeypalooza is the opportunity for those who haven’t volunteered with Campus Kitchen before,” said Raney. “We see the first time volunteers continue to stay involved.”
That’s important because Campus Kitchen provides an average of 300 meals each week throughout the year and dedicated volunteers make that possible.
For Raney, directly interacting with those that Wake Forest serves each week is the Campus Kitchen differentiator. She most enjoys building relationships with her fellow volunteers and the people they serve.
“Sitting and eating a meal with those we serve is unique to Campus Kitchen,” she said. “We’re building relationships in our community by sharing stories over a warm meal… we’re really making a difference.”