Major Donation Helps Local Pantries Provide Thanksgiving Dinner

Hundreds of area families will be able to put a traditional Thanksgiving meal on the table thanks to some very generous members of the Madison community.

The buzz around the River Food Pantry on Thursday was that in addition to the typical peanut butter and mac and cheese, families would also be able to take home a meal they can keep eating for days.

“I was thrilled to hear it,” said Jenny Czerkas, of the River Food Pantry. “I’ve had families coming in here and asking for turkeys every day this week.”

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Chris Brockel, of the Community Action Coalition, was happy to receive the good news on Wednesday: the coalition’s Thanksgiving program that they’d had to cancel because of financial reasons would continue after all.

“I would say, ‘Thank you.’ It’s as simple as that,” said Brockel, the coalition’s food and gardens division manager. “Most of these families are working families, but when they get to the end of the month, they just don’t have the money to pay all the bills and go out and shop for food as well.”

WISC-TV aired a story Sunday night about the lack of money for turkeys this year. After seeing the story, the Madison Community Foundation stepped up to help.

“We were able, through our grant-making money, to come up with $15,000, but what’s exciting is we then went to the Evjue Foundation and said, ‘If we give ($15,000), will you give ($15,000)?’ They loved the idea,” said Tom Linfield, of the Madison Community Foundation.

With the donation, the Community Action Coalition will be able to buy about 2,500 turkeys. It is late in the year, so with many birds already spoken for, some families will get ham instead, which is just fine by Brockel.

“Some people prefer ham for Thanksgiving,” he said.

“It’s great new for us. It’s really exciting. We get to help a lot more families out,” said Czerkas.

The Madison Community Foundation doesn’t typically fund food purchases because they are literally eaten up. But this time, it didn’t want thousands to go without a Thanksgiving meal. The organization said it hopes this donation will spark the community to fund the program for years to come.

For those looking to donate, instead of giving an actual turkey, pantries recommend money. A gift of $20 to a pantry or similar group can buy the equivalent of $140 because of the savings they receive, which means even more people can be fed.