TurkeyFest Celebrates 30 Years

Nov 24, 2021

Volunteer Deb Grady will arrive at the Kroc Center by 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning – something she’s been doing every Thanksgiving for more than two decades. Grady coordinates 20 or so volunteers from Heartland Pioneers, many of whom worked for Western Electric, AT&T and CommScope and have been helping to prepare Thanksgiving meals for TurkeyFest since its inception in 1991.

Originally called the Telephone Pioneers of America, the group focused on a variety of community service projects. In the early days of their partnership with The Salvation Army, Telephone Pioneers volunteers cooked the turkeys in their own home kitchens and then delivered them to The Salvation Army on Thursday morning to be delivered to older adults later that day.

In 1991, TurkeyFest volunteers delivered 40 meals. This year The Salvation Army anticipates that 1,200 Thanksgiving dinners will be distributed to older adults in Omaha. 

“I love the camaraderie, everyone doing their part and in tune with one another,” said Grady, who prepares Thanksgiving dinner for her own family on Wednesday so she is free to help out at TurkeyFest on Thanksgiving morning. “And we have fun! We enjoy ourselves back there in the kitchen.”

Grady retired in 2011 from Connectivity Solutions Manufacturing, a former division of CommScope, where she worked in the print shop. But she has stayed in touch with many of her colleagues through TurkeyFest.

“It’s a nice opportunity to see people that we don’t ordinarily connect with except at this time of the year,” she said.

Grady doesn’t have plans to step down from her TurkeyFest duties anytime soon. “I’ve made mashed potatoes for TurkeyFest for more years than I can count,” she said. “It’s just part of my Thanksgiving tradition.”  

For more information about volunteer opportunities with The Salvation Army, please visit our volunteer webpage.

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