There’s a turkey kind of atmosphere at the Weld Food Bank this holiday season, much more than in previous years.
Stephanie Gausch, director of advocacy and communications at the Weld Food Bank in Greeley, said there was a 41 percent increase in turkey requests by its agency partners (Windsor Food Pantry, soup kitchens, Salvation Army, churches, Meals on Wheels, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Weld County, etc.) than in 2012.
The good news is the Weld Food Bank exceeded its goal and gobbled up the requests from the agency partners.
Gausch said the goal was to collect 4,219 turkeys to distribute to those in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The food bank actually received 30 more for a total of 4,249 turkeys. Gausch said she believes the extra 30 turkeys came from a Lions Club in Steamboat Springs.
“The fact that we met and exceeded the request was phenomenal,” Gausch said. “We’re really so impressed by the community support, it’s just amazing.”
In 2012, Gausch said the Weld Food Bank had requests for 3,000 turkeys for the holidays.
Gausch said part of the 41 percent increase in turkey requests was due to the September floods.
“We know that a lot of people are still doubled up in staying at other people’s homes, and people have lost everything,” she said. “We have seen an increase because of the floods, and we also think we saw an increase because the food bank last year spent additional resources to try to serve other areas of the county that we haven’t been able to before, so we’re serving more additional geographic areas, as well.”
On Nov. 18, the food bank had 138 turkeys in the fold. By Nov. 27, the food bank collected 4,249 turkeys. Gausch admitted at first there was a sense of concern about meeting those requests.
“We definitely felt a little overwhelmed because the requests had increased so significantly, and we were concerned that because people had been so generous with the recent flooding that it might impact their ability to give,” Gausch said. “We were nervous going to the community once again to ask them for that support, but they overwhelmingly came through. It gives you goose bumps to see people come through the door. The majority of those turkeys came from individuals who bought one for their family and just wanted to help somebody else have a great Thanksgiving. It’s the best part of my job to be able to see that level of generosity and giving.”
Gausch said a little more than half of the 4,249 turkeys were handed out the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and the rest of the turkeys will be distributed the week before Christmas. She said the food bank has a giant freezer, and the turkeys are in bins piled to the ceiling waiting for Christmas.
Gausch said the food bank is continuing to serve Weld residents impacted by the flooding.
“We’re doing a distribution again Saturday for those impacted by the flooding,” Gausch said. “That will be at the food bank, 1108 H. St., Greeley, from 8 a.m.-noon.”
Gausch said the food bank asks people to show a letter from FEMA or if they have some proof that somebody else was staying at their home who was impacted by the flood or if they have proof that they used to live geographically in an area impacted by the flood, those people are eligible to collect perishable and nonperishable food items Saturday.
While the Weld Food Bank is not in need of turkeys, it is accepting monetary donations to help purchase food items for Christmas.
“We’re all set on the turkey front,” Gausch said. “However, we are still in need of the holiday food items for Christmas. What we do for Christmas is we ask the community to donate funds because that way we can get exactly what we need. We are able to get so much donated that we’re only paying for the distribution cost to bring the food items here. So often we can stretch their dollar further than they can purchasing something at the grocery store. Turkeys are the one exception to that. So as we enter the holiday season, we’re really asking more for financial donations to get those other holiday food items. For every dollar donated to the food bank, we can distribute six meals.”