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Turkey Donations Increase

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner November 24, 2003
Written by Mary Beth Smetzer, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Staff Writer

"We guarantee food to eat," Kirstein said, "but we don't guarantee (whole) turkeys."

Many of the turkey donations are half turkeys or turkey pieces.

"We also have some wonderful pot roast meals," Kirstein added.

For the past few years, 600 food boxes have been put together for the event. However, this year, volunteers are preparing an extra 100 boxes because of the higher food demand the Food Bank has experienced over the past 12 months.

"The needs this year have been extraordinarily high," Kirstein said. "We've served 3,000 more people in the last 12 months than the previous 12 months."

Kirstein said a lot of factors, such as the layoffs from Kmart, the high price of gasoline, loss of the Longevity Bonus by seniors, plus all the food emergencies families may have because of illness, etc., enter into the spiraling needs.

On the bright side, Kirstein said, the community is able to take care of its own.

On a daily basis, the Food Bank collects from two to five tons of food.

"And that is about what goes out the door each day. We are pretty fortunate the output is equal to the intake," Kirstein said.

Nine-tenths of the food collected, she explained, comes from local grocery stores and commercial vendors throughout community including the Eielson and Fort Wainwright commissaries. All share their surplus food. The rest is procured through community-wide canned food drives.

The Thanksgiving boxes have been put together with the help of many community organizations, churches and volunteers.

"It is always amazing to me how much effort this takes from such a variety of people," Kirstein said.

Fairbanks Rotary Club, through the efforts of Althea St. Martin, has rounded up and donated 60 cases of turkey pieces as well as celery and onions.

Students from North Pole Christian School will be packing boxes. Volunteers from First Presbyterian will be handing out food while volunteers organized by the American Red Cross keep traffic moving in the parking lot.

And for the fifth year running, students at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District's Career Education Center, located on the second floor of the Food Bank, will be cooking up a dinner Wednesday to feed the 100 or more volunteers expected to help in the packing and distribution of boxes.

"It's an opportunity for our students to do something nice for the volunteers, said CEC principal teacher Bill Bjork.

"After we feed everybody, our students will have a Thanksgiving meal too," Bjork said, "And many of our students may not have any other Thanksgiving dinner than the one here."