Wake Forest opens its heart for Thanksgiving
Four hundred area residents were the beneficiaries of home cooked meals this Thanksgiving season, thanks to the generosity of Wake Forest University students and staff.
More than 150 volunteers took part in the university’s annual Turkeypalooza feeding campaign in recent weeks, preparing a savory meal of turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin cookies for local citizens in need. The first shift of volunteers – a contingent of employees from the university’s Human Resources Department – gathered in the Campus Kitchen on the evening of Nov. 13 to craft the meals, which were delivered to the SECU Family House the following day.
“It’s good – it’s a humbling experience,” Americorps Vista member Takira Dale said of this year’s Turkeypalooza effort, which she helped to organize. “It’s something that makes people feel really good after a long, nine hour day. It’s good for faculty and staff to get together.”
Turkeypalooza, which is now in its 11th year, is an extension of Wake Forest’s Campus Kitchen food recycling program, which pairs food that was prepared but never served in the university’s dining halls with fresh produce donated by Whole Foods to create nourishing meals to be distributed by roughly 10 different partner agencies in the city. Shelley Sizemore, assistant director of Campus Life and Service and a former Community Kitchen director, said the event carries deep meaning for the volunteers and staff.
“For me, Thanksgiving is really about comfort, and the food is really about comfort, and the issue of food insecurity in Winston-Salem is upsetting for me,” said
the Wake Forest, N.C. native. “…I see this week of serving food as just a way to take that extra effort to allow people to have that comfort.”
Additional groups of volunteers flocked to the kitchen on Nov. 14, 18 and 19, to prepare meals for organizations such as The Children’s Home, Prodigal’s Community and Samaritan Ministries. The Turkeypalooza event has grown in popularity and reach, more than doubling its meal output in the last four years, explained Sizemore, a two-time alumna of the university. Volunteers have also stepped their efforts up, adding one new from scratch item to the menu each year.
“We have to extend our regular cooking shift from two to four hours, but I think it’s worth it in order for us to show the community that we really care,” Sizemore declared.
Benefits manager Beth Fay was among the handful of Human Resources staffers who were on hand for the cooking session last Tuesday night. The Massachusetts native had volunteered in the kitchen once or twice before and said she was glad to again lend a hand.
“I love to cook and I love to give back to the community – it puts things into perspective,” she remarked. “It really feels good to give back.”
Turkeypalooza was the latest in a string of community service efforts Department employees have utilized as team building exercises in recent years, Fay said.
“I think our team, we all genuinely care about each other,” she said above the bouts of laughter and energetic banter that filled the room. “You can see we just like being around each other, but particularly if there’s a common good that we’d like to achieve.”
Adam Lavis, a senior health and exercise major, has become actively involved with the kitchen this year, volunteering weekly as a shift leader.
“Honestly it’s a really great organization and it doesn’t take too much out of your day to give back to someone in need,” commented Lavis, who also belongs to the Amnesty International Club and serves as vice president of the school’s Running Club.
Winston-Salem is ranked among the most food insecure cities nationwide, which makes the Turkeypalooza event even more poignant, said Lavis, a city native.
“Once I learned that Winston-Salem and North Carolina have one of the highest rates of hunger, it became much more important for me to be involved,” he remarked. “That makes this a lot more special to me.”