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500 Turkeys It’s about people learning they can do more for their community

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Featured

Published on November 27, 2019 with No Comments

by Lee Lyons

Jennifer Bolton, founder of 500 Turkeys” has not only tripled the number of families it serves in just 10 years, but they created a distribution system that is an extension of their determination to care for and serve local families and “show them the love of God.”

If the thought of 45,000 food items being dropped off at your church all at once boggles your mind, you need to meet Jennifer Bolton of the annual “500 Turkeys” project in Valparaiso.

Pastor Jeremiah Byers from the South Haven Christian Church helps organize donated items with the help from Valparaiso Nazarene Youth Group and Morgan Township Honor Society.

The 45,000 items don’t faze Bolton; she simply calls up her hundreds of volunteers to begin counting and sorting and boxing up the food. The food was dropped off at the Valparaiso Nazarene Church on Nov. 9, the collected donations of dozens of churches, businesses, social groups, and individuals. Bolton, who began “500 Turkeys” and runs it every year, says she’s thrilled, as always, at the generosity of people and the growth of “500 Turkeys.”

“We do this with God’s help,” she explains. “He inspires us, directs us, and brings us the volunteers and donations beyond anything we could imagine.”

“We began 10 years ago when I went to a Youth in Christ conference and cards were offered to people with projects they could do to honor God. My card said ‘feed 500 families for Thanksgiving.’ So, that’s how we got started.”

The first two years, Bolton’s group at Life Bridge Christian Church bought 500 turkeys and side items, along with roasting pans for the families who signed up.

And the program has grown every year from 500 families in 2009 and 2010 to the addition of a second side item in 2011, to 600 families in 2012, then, 700, 912, 1,100, 1,300, to 1,500 in 2017 and 1,550 in 2018. Bolton’s goal for this year is 1,500 families who will receive a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, brownie mix, Jello, cornbread, and other items as available.

In fact, “500 Turkeys” has not only tripled the number of families it serves in just 10 years, but it created a distribution system that is an extension of their determination to care for and serve local families and “show them the love of God,”  according to Bolton.  In order to accommodate the huge numbers of people and food, the storage and packing, as well as the distribution, were moved from Life Bridge Church to the Valparaiso Nazarene Church, a much larger venue.

This year’s distribution days were Nov. 23and 24.

Distribution days are much more than handing out boxes of food. It has become a celebration itself with a hot lunch, socializing, and tables and volunteers for many needs, including giving away Bibles, a large free clothing area, and medical help. This year’s medical table is provided by North Shore Health Centers and includes free blood pressure checks. In past years Porter Hospital and the Lions Club have provided health services.

Church volunteers chat with families, help them get clothing, and carry their boxes out to their cars.

“We’re showing as much love as we can,” Bolton says. “God’s love is infinite and we are blessed to be doing His work.”

The entire program depends on volunteers. “It’s about people learning they can do more for their community. There are hundreds of ways to help,” Bolton explains. “The trucks that bring the food are donated by a local company. The collections of food and money for turkeys are done by local groups and businesses. The storage, packing, and everything are donated. A local company donates our boxes—over a thousand. God provides through His people.”

For more information about how you can help, visit the “500 Turkeys” website at www.500turkeys.com.

 

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