About two dozen volunteers spent Monday morning in the parking lot of the Elks Lodge among smoke pits filled with turkeys. Inside the lodge, rows of canned goods sat on a table, ready to be packed into empty boxes that were stacked floor-to-ceiling. By the end of the day, 225 turkeys would be cooked, packed and delivered by sheriff’s deputies to area families ahead of Thanksgiving.
The project would also have a new name by the end of the day: The Steve McBride Annual Turkey Trot.
“This part is kind of the easy part,” said Steve McBride as he looked across the rows of smokers lined up along the front of the lodge. He is not a fan of having the event bear his name, and said that the project would be impossible without the volunteers.
The assembly line of cooking, packing and delivering was all done by volunteers. He and many of the volunteers are also members of the Ardmore Elks Lodge, but everyone on Monday morning helped prepare, cook, organize and pack the boxes that included everything needed to feed an entire family on Thanksgiving weekend.
Now in its second year, McBride said the amount of boxes being prepared and donated has nearly doubled, but so has the resources being made available. New Hope Truck Salvage has been involved both years, and McBride said the Lone Grove-based company was responsible for nearly half of the project’s costs this year.
Apparel store Buckle also covered nearly half of the costs, and small donations from individuals filled in any gaps, McBride said. Competitive smokers in the area were also eager to lend their time and equipment to cook the turkeys.
With personal connections at other area nonprofit groups, Elks Lodge members also worked with Carter County Sheriff Chris Bryant to identify area families in need. “It was all by word-of-mouth,” Bryant said of selecting the people that would receive the boxes.
Once the boxes were filled by Monday evening, sheriff’s deputies then loaded the packages into sheriff’s vehicles and delivered them to families. “We’re going to be able to feed about 2,000 people out of this deal,” Bryant estimated. “We’re able to cover about four counties tonight,” he said, with most of the boxes going to Carter County households.
McBride said the project will likely continue next year and the lodge would try to secure a grant to help offset some of the costs in the future. Until then, he knows that the youngest members of needy families will benefit from this project the most. “It’s a little costly, but...money ain’t everything,” he said.