Ivan Thomas wants to more than double the size of Stormin’ Norman’s 40-year-old Thanksgiving turkey giveaway for senior citizens and needy families.
The event is now dubbed “Big Ive’s Turkey Drive and Give-A-way,” and Thomas hopes to be able to give away 3,000 turkeys in 2023 in Wilmington, Dover and other state locations.
Last year’s total was 1,400.
That number should feed about 24,000 people, said Thomas, executive director of DETV, during an information session Tuesday with partners.
“We have to do right,” he said. “We all believe that no one should be going hungry, right, so we can start with saying no one should be going hungry on a holiday.”
Thomas was tapped by Oliver last year to take over the turkey drive as he retired after a tenure that saw 250,000 turkeys into grateful hands during his four decades at the helm.
Plans for the Nov. 21 distribution — only 26 days away as of Wednesday morning — already involve help from D.A.R.T., police, firefighters, the Chase Fieldhouse, the Delaware Blue Coats and more.
Turkey Drive needs
Among the things Thomas and his organizing committee told its partners Tuesday during an informational session:
- The organization will continue Oliver’s agreement with Food Lion in which the grocery chain will give them a certain number of turkeys and a cash donation. Big Ive’s will take the donation and any other cash donations they receive and use the money to buy turkeys at a low bulk rate from Food Lion. Last year, they were Butterballs.
- Big Ive’s would like to find a way to add sides to the turkeys. Right now the Black sororities and fraternities that belong to the National Panhellenic Council of New Castle County provide 11 sides for 150 people, which covers one senior housing development.
- The drive’s big needs are cash donations of any size, which will be put toward buying less-expensive turkeys, and volunteer help upstate and down. Unloading and reorganizing the turkeys when they arrive from Food Lion and delivering several hundred turkeys in one senior highrise takes bodies.
Michelle Fidance of Multiplying Good worked with Oliver and is heading the logistics efforts for Big Ive’s Turkey Drive.
Food Lion came on as a corporate sponsor because its Food Lion Feeds program has a goal of providing 1 billion meals by 2025, she said.
Oliver’s turkey giveaway was a cause that could help them reach that goal.
Being able to buy the turkeys are a low cost per bird helps the organization avoid problems that can occur when someone promises 25 turkeys but then is only able to provide five, she said.
It’s also impossible to walk into any grocery store and just buy 2,500 birds at once, Fidance said, and that’s what they hope to do.
Big Ive’s Turkey Drive will accept donations of any kind, she and Thomas said. Even little amounts — such as $1 per employee for a company — can add up to buy a lot of turkeys, they said.
The drive has set some sponsorship levels on their website, with a variety of price points, to give interested organizations the ability to choose one that suits their group.
Fidance said a $2,000 sponsorship will provide enough turkeys to feed a senior highrise or to support a single Boys & Girls Club need.
OLIVER’S FINAL DRIVE: Norman passes baton after giving away 1,400 turkeys
DART will provide a bus to drive turkeys around Wilmington and then a smaller bus to take turkeys downstate.
Wilmington stops will include Herlihy Apartments, Compton Towers, Windsor Apartments, Quaker Hill Place, Sacred Heart, Luther Towers 1, Luther Towers 2, Lincoln Towers, Parkview Apartments, Terry Apartments, Baynard Apartments and Crestview Apartments.
The downstate route will include stops at the Seaford, Georgetown, Milford, Dover, Smyrna and Greater Newark Boys & Girls Clubs.
Courtney Devane of the Delaware Authority for Regional Transport said her agency decided to doubledown on holiday efforts by working with Thomas’s turkey drive.
After it ends, she said, DART will help deliver turkeys from Big Ive’s drive.
Thomas said the organization would one day like to provide sides with the turkeys for everybody, but can’t tackle that this year.
He pointed to Keith Pettiford of the National Panhellenic Council of New Castle. Its 11 sororities and fraternities split up a suggested 11 side items, with each group providing 150 of one, such as macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce and cornbread.
They meet the Sunday before Thanksgiving to create packages with one item from each, and then deliver those packages on the Tuesday of the giveaway.
The Wilmington YMCA already has some volunteers lined up to help. Gua-Wan Smith of the Y said the students who participate really enjoy doing it.
Dr. Nakishia Bailey of DOT Foods suggested that the drive try to harness the volunteer power of Delaware State University students. Her son is a freshman there.
Those on Inspire Scholarships are required to have 10 hours of volunteer time, she said. Those students come from around the state.
While they will be out of school that week, she thought the drive should consider contacting the school and letting them know about the volunteer opportunity.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
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