Volunteers await last year’s donations for the St. Emydius Turkey Drive.
St. Emydius volunteers talking turkey - hams too
November 15th, 2016
By Tom Burke
The St. Emydius holiday turkey drive is once again in gear. The event accepts donations each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas with all collected going to San Francisco’s St. Anthony’s Dining Room for use in its iconic service to the poor with meals every day of the year. It began in 2012 with 19 turkeys coming from neighbors and friends.
“In 2013, I asked Father Bill Brady, pastor of St. Emydius, to join us in our effort so we could reach out to the parishioners of our church and to a larger neighborhood,” parishioner Pierre Smit told Catholic San Francisco. Smit began the effort with a now deceased friend. “We collected 289 turkeys.” In 2014, 325 turkeys were donated. Last year the campaign added social media alerts and passing out 3,000 fliers to its publicity efforts. “We collected an incredible 429 turkeys,” Smit said. “So we have collected now over 1000 turkeys in the last three years thanks to the generosity of so many people and with the great input from the St. Emydius Parish. Father Bill Brady and Father Dave Pettingill have been an incredible support.”
The drive takes place on Saturdays before each of the big holidays: This year it is Nov. 19 and Dec. 17, both days 9 a.m.-noon. More than a dozen volunteers are onsite to help.
Keeping track of the gifts and making sure all reach St. Anthony’s in good condition is no simple task.
“We rent a U Haul truck where we stock the turkeys and we prefer to receive frozen turkeys,” Smit said. “We keep the fresh turkeys squeezed between frozen ones. Right after it’s off to St. Anthony’s to deliver the turkeys and the checks from those who donate that way.
Thanks to an email effort, the drive has expanded its reach and cash donations now come from all parts of the United States, Smit said. A website has also been established: www.sfturkeydrive.com.
While turkeys – “frozen, please,” Smit affirmed – are the mainstay. All donations are gratefully accepted and put to good use. “From vegetarian donors who rather not purchase turkeys, we welcome boxes of fresh vegetables,” Smit said. For Christmas, hams are also recommended to be dropped off.
Each of the collection days is busy, Smit said. “It’s pretty much lined up cars at peak time. Neighbors are walking with their turkeys, driving their car or bicycle, and even come with a hand truck. We get hugs, we get laughter and lots of thank you’s. It’s like an annual event for the neighborhood when everyone wants to join in and participate.”
“This event made me feel so humble to see many people wanting to join in,” Smit said. “A simple idea has become a great event for our neighborhood, for our parish, and so many people who care about feeding the ones who are poor, hungry and simply need a help to get back onto a new direction. I was an undocumented immigrant myself and I always have been very lucky in this country. I just like to share with the ones that have not been as lucky as I have been.”
From November 17, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.