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Operation Turkey Drop delivers holiday meals

Local groups support military

I Corps families receive their Thanksgiving delivery. Photo credit: Carlene Joseph

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"Operation: Turkey Drop is a great cause and it really gets you into the holiday spirit of giving to those who sacrifice so much throughout the year," said Operation: Turkey Drop facilitator, Carlene Joseph.  "It's even more rewarding when you're touching the lives of junior-enlisted military families."

The season for holiday giving is upon the Pacific Northwest and what better way to give back this year than by donating a holiday ham or turkey during Thanksgiving and Christmas times to a military family in need?

More than 200 turkeys were delivered across Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Camp Murray Nov. 18 as part of Operation: Turkey Drop, funded by the Pierce Military Business Alliance and other organizations.

"We fundraise for Operations: Turkey Drop (Nov. 18) and Ham Grenade (Dec. 16) at the same time," said Joseph.

Each year, approximately $40,000 is raised to cover the expenses of purchasing turkeys and hams, as well as to provide seed money for the following year.

"This year, we hope to purchase over 2,400 turkeys and hams, depending upon our overall fundraising success, of course," said Joseph.  "At this point, it seems very doable."

As soon as the holiday meal funds are in hand, the volunteer group reaches out to military public affairs officers (PAOs) at each unit on JBLM to inform them on how many turkeys and/or hams can be allocated to each one.

The PAOs help to connect to the individual units to identify the recipients, which are majorly junior-enlisted families. 

The support doesn't just stop at JBLM either.

"For the National Guard, we work directly with the Family Readiness Center on Camp Murray and they help to identify the recipient families," added Joseph.  "We follow the same approach for the Seattle Army Recruiting Battalion as well."

Turkeys and hams are ordered through Wal-Mart in Puyallup, which includes a 10 percent discount because of the military connection.

"Throughout the years, they have streamlined the packaging and payment process, making it very easy to manage, so our deliveries can occur without any challenges," said Joseph.

During the delivery days, the sponsors are invited to join the Operation: Turkey Drop team for the deliveries across the base. 

"Lucky Eagle Casino donated their unmarked luxury bus and sponsors the ride-alongs for the deliveries across base," said Joseph.  "Following along, were two box trucks carrying all of the turkeys and hams."

The box trucks are donated by the Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse and Cannon Construction.

"When we deliver the turkeys and hams to the assigned units, they're given to first sergeants or other POCs, who then help to distribute them to their junior-enlisted recipients," said Joseph.

Although the focal point of this mission is to supply servicemembers with holiday meals, this delivery of meals wouldn't be possible if not for the many sponsors.  

"We're fortunate because our sponsors reoccur each year," said Joseph.  "Many of these sponsors have carried us for eight years now, so we're very fortunate."

Both the Operation: Turkey Drop and the Operation: Ham Grenade (providing holiday hams during Christmas time) programs are coordinated by the Air Force Association (AFA): McChord Chapter, the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), Captain Meriwether Lewis Chapter, and the Pierce Military and Business Alliance (PMBA). 

The PMBA, consisting of 29 business partners, helps to pay for the National Guard turkeys and hams, while the AFA raises funds for the Air Force and AUSA raises the funds for the Army. 

"Collectively, we cover the entire installation and Camp Murray," added Joseph.  "This is a true collaborative community effort, brought to you by our many generous sponsors."

The generous sponsors that make this event happen consist of the following businesses:  The Puyallup Indian Tribe, Harborstone Credit Union, The Boeing Company, Support America's Armed Forces, GEICO Local Office, Tactical Tailor, American Lake Credit Union (Camp Murray), Cargill and Associates, Lakewood Chamber of Commerce, Pet Brigade, Northwest Airlifter/The Ranger Newspapers, LeMay, Pierce County Refuse, Patriot's Landing, SureID, Inc., Cannon Construction, Inc., Saint Martin's University, Northwest Harley-Davidson, Lucky Eagle Casino and Hotel, Caliber Home Loans, MidCountry Bank, Auburn Volkswagen, Little Caesars Pizza, US Family Health Plan, Windermere Real Estate, Better Business Bureau, CalPortland, The Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse, Rainier Connect, Olympic Eagle Distributing, AIRSTREAMS, Renewables Inc., Best Western Premier Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, America's Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union, VARep Tacoma Chapter, Armed Forces Financial Network, DaVita, Fix Auto, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Gilchrist Auto, Veterans National Lending Group, Wounded Warrior Project, and Procura Mortgage Company.

Although the birds have been delivered, there is still plenty of time to sign the dotted line and join the Operation: Ham Grenade mission.

Donations are still being collected for holiday hams (Operation: Ham Grenade). If interested, please email Carlene Joseph at carlene.joseph@harborstone.com.

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