A couple weeks ago, I had Heidi Stoermer for 5 Question Friday telling us about her annual food drive for Tacoma Rescue Mission. Heidi and a small group of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers along donations from countless others made this year’s feed drive a rousing success. I asked Heidi if I could share her write up of the event and she graciously accepted. Here’s Heidi:
I’ve been pondering this wrap up for a few of days now, wondering how I can even begin to summarize this year’s drive. Let me start with a little history, and then we’ll get to the counts.
Our ThanksGIVING Food Drive began 4 years ago. I was working for a large company in downtown Tacoma, who decided to move operations elsewhere. My team had volunteered several times at the Rescue Mission, so we were all familiar with the great work that the mission does every day. The ThanksGIVING Food Drive was an extension of that volunteer work, and a way for the team to refocus our priorities in the face of a layoff.
That first year, we raised about $150. A small group of coworkers took a shopping trip, and we filled the trunk of our car with turkeys, canned goods, stuffing, and potatoes. We dropped it all off at the Rescue Mission, and drove away feeling buoyant, thankful. There were high fives and hugs all around.
Karin Losk (my ThanksGIVING counterpart/partner in couponing) and I decided that we’d make our little food drive a yearly tradition. We nearly doubled our donations the second year, and filled my VW bus – Pickle – to the rafters. Last year, our 3rd, we had a very slow start. But friends came together, we wheeled and dealed, and once again, we were able to pack Pickle full of turkeys, pies, and all the fixings.
That brings us up to this year – our 4th Annual ThanksGIVING Food Drive!
This is the first year that we opened our food drive up to the community, not just our friends, family, and coworkers. We had high hopes for mobile donation stations and personal pick-ups for folks who couldn’t get to us on donation day. A good friend, Jack Cameron, interviewed us for TacomaStories.com, and we got a little more help from TacomaMama.com. Folks shared our event far and wide, committing to help us help the Rescue Mission.
As these things go, some of those commitments fell through. I had a pretty discouraging week or so prior to donation day, trying to nail down store discounts and our donation pick-up schedule. In the end, though, an amazing thing happened (again!) – friends started coming out of the woodwork, offering their time and energy to help make this drive successful. By donation day, we had so many volunteers that our usual all-day shopping trip could be whittled down to a 2 hour block. We split up into 3 teams – 2 shopping teams, and a mobile donation station.
The only store that agreed to help us this year was Top Foods, so we made that our base of operations. In our first hour of shopping, we’d secured 17 turkeys. The cashier asked us what was going on with all the birds, so we talked to her about the Rescue Mission and our ThanksGIVING food drive. Across town, team #2 was at Saar’s Market, also making out like bandits. Both teams made second stops at Albertsons stores, where another interested cashier tried to find us more coupons to use on boxes of stuffing.
In the meantime, our first mobile donation station of the day was having a pretty rough time out at the Krispy Kreme by the Tacoma Mall. Not a single person met us at that station, which we’ll definitely keep in mind for next year’s drive. We all met back up at Top Foods at noon, where things picked up again. We received a few last minute donations that allowed us to purchase 5 additional turkeys. The same cashier helped us the second time around, and let us know that she’d looked for us about an hour before, while we were at Albertsons. Someone had bought $1000 worth of groceries, which made them elligible for 6 free turkeys. The shopper didn’t want them, but the cashier made sure they got rung up anyway. Since we were away when the freebies came through, they weren’t part of our count, but those turkeys did make it to the Salvation Army. I’m so glad we told that cashier about ThanksGIVING – she said she wouldn’t have thought twice about it if we hadn’t come through her line that morning.
With all the donation funds spent, Karin and I made a run out to the Lakewood Walmart for our final donation station and a personal pick-up. For the second year in a row, our buddy Mark Manning and his partner Annie met us with a huge food donation – pies, butter, cereal, boxed meals – all sorts of great stuff that we hadn’t had the funds to purchase. Karin’s cousin, Kirtsen, also met us and offloaded apples staight off her trees and farm fresh eggs.
By the time all was said and done, we had 2 vehicles absolutely overflowing with donations. We caravanned down to the mission, where we unloaded our haul with the help of several mission volunteers.
I took a moment to ask about the typical donation that the Rescue Mission receives at this time of year, and one of the volunteers noted, “This is the biggest donation I’ve seen by far.” All of the planning, all of the stress, getting soaking wet and freezing in the rain, loading 500 lbs of turkeys from one car to another – it was all worth it the moment we heard that.
Without further ado, here are this year’s totals:
29 turkeys (average weight: 18 lbs)
252 lbs potatoes
20 lbs apples
17 lbs carrots
10 lbs celery
7 lbs sweet potatoes
5 lbs onions
95 boxes of stuffing
86 cans green beans
86 cans corn
27 cans cranberry
14 large cans yams
12 cans olives
11 cans pineapple
24 cans gravy
12 gravy mix
72 frozen rolls
13 boxes pastaroni
8 boxes scalloped potatoes
5 boxes macaroni and cheese
3 lbs spaghetti
5 dozen eggs
4 large boxes stock
4 pumpkin pies
3 boxes butter
2 boxes Cheerios
2 tubs of cool whip
…and a single 2 liter of Dr. Pepper that we got for free since we spent so much at one of the grocery stores.
We were able to do this because cash donations this year were the most we’ve ever received. They came from all over the South Sound, as well as from friends in Nevada and California. Our friend Chris came the farthest to donate and lend a hand, joining us for the day from Salvador, Brazil. To everyone that donated this year – be it time, funds, or food – THANK YOU! We’ll see you next year, on Nov. 16th. Mark your calendars!
As we were about to leave the Rescue Mission, one of the volunteers came out of the walk-in freezer, and updated their turkey count to include our donation: 200 turkeys
That seems like a lot, until you learn that the Rescue Mission needs 2000 turkeys to meet the needs of our community this Thanksgiving.
Today, the mission hit 483 turkeys, with only 2 days to go. If you’re out shopping tomorrow and hit that $50 or $100 level several stores have right now, please grab that free or discounted turkey and get it to the mission. If it’s easier for you to make a direct donation, you can do so here: http://www.rescue-mission.org/donate
Please also remember that while our ThanksGIVING drive comes but once a year, the Rescue Mission feeds hundreds of people every day, more than 23,000 meals a month. Your donations are always welcome, no matter the season.