Response is remarkable to food pantry’s call for
Thanksgiving turkeys

By MARK HAYWARD
New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER — The director of New Horizons food pantry said the pressure is off to find Thanksgiving turkeys, after companies and individuals flooded New Horizons Thursday with offers to compensate for the unexpected loss of turkey donations from Elliot Hospital employees.

Charlie Sherman said he received offers of cash and at least 500 turkeys by noon on Thursday. Earlier that morning, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported that his expectations for turkey donations would likely fall short by about 200.

Sherman said he can now start thinking ahead to the Christmas season.

“We’re going into the two big holidays, and now certainly a lot of the pressure is off,” Sherman said. “The people in this community care that everyone has a great Thanksgiving dinner.”

This week, Elliot Hospital acknowledged it would not give a Thanksgiving bonus turkey to its workers and volunteers, an annual tradition that usually resulted in about 200 birds being passed on to New Horizons.

When informed of Elliot’s decision by a reporter, Sherman had said it threw a monkey wrench into plans to give 1,200 Thanksgiving baskets for the poor.

But several organizations stepped up. Employees of the Internet performance company Dyn offered 200 turkeys, as did New Hampshire Food Bank, which had received an unexpected donation of 500 turkeys from Associated Grocers, said director Mel Gosselin.

Sherman said he also received pledges from the Singer family, which owns Merchants Auto; Nick Vailas of Bedford Ambulatory Surgery Center; Anthem Blue Cross and several individuals.

Catholic Medical Center, which plans to give away 2,000 turkeys to its staff, volunteers and medical associates this year, ordered 100 extra turkeys for New Horizons on Thursday, spokesman Donna Dubuc said.

“Some have offered cash, some have offered turkeys,” Sherman said, “certainly more than the 200 we’ll lose from Elliot and enough to get us started for Christmas.”

Sherman does not expect that requests for food will be down this year. But he said it appears that businesses can afford to make donations and are doing so.

Gosselin said the New Hampshire Food Bank surpassed last year’s distribution of 8.5 million pounds of food three weeks ago. She expects to distribute 10.5 million pounds by year’s end. Her organization supplies 400 soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters across the state.

“The goal of all of us is to fill pantries to get them through the months where people need to heat (their homes),” Gosselin said.

Statewide, the Food Bank expects that 19,000 Thanksgiving food baskets will be distributed.

Elliot had said its decision will save tens of thousands of dollars, and employees would be treated to a holiday dinner instead of getting a bird.

CMC’s Dubuc said the West Side hospital has been distributing turkeys to its staff, volunteers, health care providers and workers at the St. Peter’s Home child care center for years.

“It’s one way we can thank our employees, our volunteers and our providers for the hard work they do year-round,” Dubuc said.

mhayward@unionleader.com

Mark Hayward