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Cranbrook Chamber’s Turkey Drive: a legacy of community philanthropy

The Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce 2017 Turkey Drive will culminate in a one day campaign on Thursday, December 7 with all funds raised going directly to the Salvation Army and the Cranbrook Food Bank Society.

Seven years ago, The Salvation Army came to the chamber looking for a little support, as they were short for some of their hampers that they needed for their clients. The Chamber responded by calling about a dozen people they knew they could count on and ended up raising several thousand dollars in a short period of time. Those families that were going to miss out had a hamper provided for them.

That’s the point when the Chamber and their members realized, ‘hey if we got a little bit more serious we could really make a difference,’” said David D. Hull, executive director at the Chamber.

And so that’s when the Turkey Drive began and since then it’s raised over $275,000. Their goal this year is $65,000 — all of which will be distributed equally between the Salvation Army and the Food Bank.

Hull moved here three years ago, on the Monday following the Turkey Drive Thursday and recalls feeling amazed at what had transpired and the money that was raised. Based on that he feels completely confident that they can attain this year’s goal.

“It really is amazing and it’s very heartening,” Hull said. “As someone who’s very new to Cranbrook the generosity and the care and concern of everyone for everyone in the community — it’s really quite remarkable.”

The Chamber puts together a team of pledgers they’ve dubbed “The Little Pluckers,” made up of representatives of the business community who work to collect donations through their extensive contact lists.

Former Chamber manager Karin Penner, Hull explained, is always one of their top pluckers. She chases down all the past people who were in the Sweetheart program and, $20 at a time, collects thousands of dollars from all over the world.

Individuals can donate a virtual turkey —the Chamber insists no real birds, frozen, alive or otherwise, shall be accepted — by responding to a Littler Plucker request, donating online at, by phone at (250)-426-5914 or by stopping in at the Chamber office at 2279 Cranbrook Street North. Donations are collected anytime up until and including December 8.

“It certainly is a community that comes together,” said Hull. “And unfortunately the need for hampers and assistance, it isn’t just at Christmas it certainly is year round. But at Christmas of course families who are really struggling, they try to provide a Christmas and try to provide gifts and often there isn’t enough money for food.

“So it just breaks my heart, I sit and live a good life thinking that somebody’s at home that maybe doesn’t have money for heat or enough money for food on a regular basis, much less a Christmas dinner and that empathy resonates throughout the town and that’s what really makes people come together for the various philanthropic causes around the city.”

One example of how the program has touched the lives of people in Cranbrook was included in the Chamber’s press release as follows:

“It was the 22nd of December 2012. There was a knock at the door, I answered it and no one was there. I ran over to the window to see out the front window to see who had just been there. I saw tail lights. I walked back to the door. A box wrapped around the outside with gift wrap had been left. I looked into it, there was a turkey, a hand full of potatoes, a bag of carrots, a can of corn, a can of cranberry, a pack of gravy four homemade buns and a box of stovetop stuffing. I won’t try to explain how it made me feel, I will simply say it did. It made me feel … Parts of me still wants to know who it was so I can hug them.”

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