Yearly turkey drive aims to help local families

For the 4th year in a row the Chamber of Commerce will be putting on the one day drive for the Salvation Army and the Cranbrook Food Bank.

Jason Wheeldon is talking turkey! Lots of turkeys — for the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce’s 4th annual turkey drive. Wednesday

Jason Wheeldon is talking turkey! Lots of turkeys — for the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce’s 4th annual turkey drive. Wednesday

The Christmas season is a time for celebration, but as with many places, some families in the Cranbrook area are in tough situations over the holidays.

For the fourth year in a row the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce will be putting on the one day turkey drive for the Salvation Army and the Cranbrook Food Bank.

The goal of the drive is to provide festive holiday dinners to 750 families in need in the community. The Chamber will be taking donations and organizers are hoping to collect at least $20,000 in pledges.

The turkey drive is Wednesday, Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The drive started a number of years ago.

“There was a call out from the Salvation Army that they didn’t have enough donations to do hampers and turkeys for people in need,” said Jason Wheeldon, one of the event organizers. So a few of the Chamber directors and staff got together and started calling up the business community and Wheeldon said the donations were filled within a few hours. And because the need was there, they decided to make it a yearly thing for the Chamber to do, and broaden the reach to the general public.

Some community “celebrity pledge raisers” will be helping out and Wheeldon himself will be dressing up as a six-foot tall turkey as a remind for people to make a call or visit the Chamber to make a pledge.

Wheeldon said his quirky sense of humour lead him to find the turkey outfit.

“We were at a store and I seen the chicken outfit,” he said. “I thought, let’s have some fun with it. So we tried to do it really humorously. We set a contest last year that any group, organization or business that’s going to come in with a larger donation for the Turkey Drive, we will come up dressed as a turkey and pick it up.”

Wheeldon said the outfit brings a lot of laughter, usually at whoever is wearing the outfit’s expense.

As to who has to wear the outfit, Wheeldon said whoever is on his “hit list.”

Last year the Turkey drive raised something like $28,000 Wheeldon said, and they hope to do the same or better this year. The idea is people pledge a turkey and that pledge amounts to about a $20 donation.

“We try to make it as easy as possible to the donors, so they phone their donation in to the Chamber of Commerce or they can drop their donation off,” he said. “Just for convenience needs we can invoice them through the Chamber or bill them.”

Wheeldon said the drive takes pressure off the food bank and Salvation Army so that some of the organizations capital that would be used up at Christmas time for those in need can be used for other times of the year. For instance in January and February, the charitable organizations still see a high demand for services, but fewer donations, so those funds can help to tie them over.

“All the funds that they receive through the program go into their Christmas Hamper programs,” he said. There are 750 hampers that need to be prepared this year between the two organizations and the cost of those hampers ranges from $85-$100, which means the program can cost as much as $75,000.

“So if we can help by bringing them $25,000 into it, then it keeps their resources for when it’s needed,” he said.

On Wednesday, Dec. 5, call the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce office at 250-426-5914 to make a pledge.