Turkey drive returns to stuff local pantries for Thanksgiving

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The United Way of Aroostook will once again host the High Five Turkey Drive that has brought thousands of dollars to Aroostook County food pantries over the past few years during Thanksgiving.  

The United Way will work to provide local grocery store gift certificates to food pantries that provide Thanksgiving baskets to those they serve.   This year’s event will continue to focus more on collecting gift cards and monetary donations instead of actual turkeys to decrease the number of times the turkeys are handled to help keep the community healthy.  

Live donation events will  will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3, at Priority Auto Sales in Houlton; from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 4, in Fort Kent at John’s Shurfine and St. John Valley Pharmacy; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 5, at Star City IGA in Presque Isle.

“Each year the event has brought so much relief to pantries and organizations that work hard to get a special meal out to those in need,” said Sarah Duncan, executive director of the United Way of Aroostook.  “It warms your heart to see the people who work so hard at each pantry and organization to see their surprise and appreciation for the extra assistance they desperately need to do the work they do around the holidays.”

Actual turkeys are more difficult for the pantries to store, so gift cards enable workers to purchase the turkeys right before their event and not have to store them, Duncan said.  

“They are also able to purchase other parts of a Thanksgiving meal to provide even more to the individuals and families,” she added.

Townsquare Media is partnering with UWA in the effort. Last year donations totaled just over $14,000 over the three days.  That money went to pantries and organizations throughout Aroostook County, allowing them to put together Thanksgiving baskets or purchase turkeys to give to those in need of a hand up during the holiday season.  

“This year we are setting a goal at $15,000 due to the increased needs being seen in the communities,” Duncan said. 

Last year’s event saw many businesses and organizations stop by to make large donations.  Many challenged one another to match or exceed their gift. But it wasn’t just the businesses and organizations that made the event so successful.  

“We loved to see the individuals that would stop by the table and contribute and give to make sure their friends, family and neighbors were cared for during the holidays.  We have gotten to know a lot of the donors as they have repeatedly shown up to support the event and often bringing their children along with them,” Duncan said. “Last year in Houlton we had two children who came and donated all the money they had made from selling their pumpkins.”

To participate in the High Five Turkey Drive, stop by one of the live events or contact United Way for more information at 764-5197. 

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