Celebrating 20 Years of Rotary Turkey Drive

The Rotary Turkey Drive is entering its 20th year, all because Barry Abelson decided that families in need deserved a turkey with their Christmas meal.

It all started with a single thought.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if children in need could also have a turkey dinner for Christmas?”

Barry Abelson had this revelation while visiting House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper program in December 2003 and realized that families only received cans of food. Barry thought they deserved better at Christmas time.

And Barry did more than simply think about it – he did something.

He donated 100 turkeys to add to Christmas Hampers for local families. The turkeys were gone in only three days.

The following year, Barry asked how many turkeys would be needed for every family that received a Christmas Hamper.

“They told me they needed at least 1,000,” said Barry. So Barry wrote to 30 friends, asking them to help make it happen. Within two weeks, he had raised $22,000 – enough to buy 1,100 turkeys. For the next two years, he did the same thing on his own, getting 1,300 turkeys in 2005, and 1,750 in 2006.

By 2007, Barry’s vision had grown even further. He wanted to cover the costs for the entire Christmas Hampers program, so he turned to his friends at the Kitchener-Conestoga Rotary Club for help.

That’s how the Rotary Turkey Drive began. Now celebrating 20 years since its humble origin, the Turkey Drive fundraises over $400,000 every year, with the proceeds going towards the costs of our Christmas Food program. Because of this, over 14,000 community members receive a turkey, halal chicken, or ham and a grocery gift card to enjoy a special holiday meal with their loved ones.

“It’s unbelievable how this all evolved. I feel fabulous that all this happened and that so many families have been helped.”

“It’s such a good feeling helping others. This turkey drive is one of the best things that has happened in my life.”

There’s still time to support this year’s Rotary Turkey Drive and provide a special holiday meal for families and individuals in Kitchener and Waterloo! Visit www.turkeydrive.ca to give today.

Posted on: November 25th, 2022

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