Those looking for a little help putting together a Thanksgiving meal can get a boost with a few giveaways scheduled for early next week.
The first Thanksgiving basket giveaway will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday with turkeys and side dishes packed together at Cleveland Elementary, 2801 Vanness St., across Port Huron’s Masonic Central Star Lodge #23.
Two days later, around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, MIGardener in St. Clair will also be giving away turkeys.
Each giveaway will largely accommodate recipients on a first-come, first-served basis — and is poised to help more than 400 families combined.
In the days leading up to the giveaway, MIGardener owner Luke Marion said they wanted to help residents amid rising food prices for families as a whole.
For DeMar Dinkins, the lodge’s master of worship, they were “trying to bless anyone who could, who wanted to come out.”
The business of St. Clair hopes to increase the available turkeys by Tuesday’s distribution
Anyone wanting to pick up a MIGardener turkey will be flagged down to enter the horseshoe of a business at 1426 Oakland Ave. on the north side.
Marion said his family business originally hoped to give away a thousand turkeys when planning began weeks ago. But with the higher-than-expected price “throwing a wrench” in their plans, he said their latest target is 500.
As of Wednesday, Marion said they have 250 turkeys confirmed for Tuesday’s giveaway and are working on finding more. He encouraged those interested to follow the business on Facebook for new details on available turkeys.
“If I keep calling, I feel like I can probably get 500. But not knowing for sure, it could be 300, it could be 400,” Marion said.
“The problem is that we planned to do this over a month ago, so now we basically have to buy the surplus that they are willing to sell us at a discount,” he added. “The stores are so close to Thanksgiving.”
Marion said they want to help local families with the cost of turkeys, citing high cost inflation and hands-on knowledge of how spending habits have changed — including in their own store, where they “definitely notice that the cost of living is reflected of people”.
“We’re seeing that across the board with people, because we’re a business, people are turning to using credit about 30% more often than before,” he said. “We’re finding that the average number of people who can shop and spend is going down.”
Turkey prices jumped between 2020 and 2022. According to an annual survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, however, while costs are still historically high, things weren’t expected to hit wallets as hard. That includes the average price for a 16-pound turkey of $27.35, down 5.6 percent from last year at $1.71 a pound. The average price for a classic holiday meal for 10 is also down 4.5% from last year’s record high average.
Either way, the lodge giveaway was also meant to fill the gap – in more ways than one.
Lodge giveaway is “bridging the gaps where people fail”
Earlier this past week, Dinkins said volunteers will put together more than 200 gift bags, each of which includes two boxes of corn, green beans and potatoes, two boxes of mac and cheese and oven stuffing and one box of cranberry sauce.
“We have a turkey for every basket and right now we’ve done just over 200 baskets and we have over 200 turkeys, so we’ll have more turkeys. So, first come, first served,” he said. “And it just happened that way. We took donations from the community and donated (items). We received money from the community foundation and other organizations.
Dinkins said they budgeted more than $2,200 for the supplies, crediting local donations and volunteers who made it work.
In addition to the Cleveland giveaway, they also planned to take some of the baskets to 30 seniors.
“Everything has worked out perfectly because the cost of inflation, just the cost of everything has gone up and a lot of seniors don’t have the money or the income to make up that difference,” Dinkins said. “This is already bad for everyone everywhere. But we’re just trying to help in any way we can.
Helping seniors is an area that Kevin Totti, a local Port Huron pastor who helped establish connections for the lodge, said is just one example of how the effort is bridging the gap or “bridging the gaps that people fall through.”
“So many times we all duplicate services and this is one of the times where Mr. Dinkins really, really strives to have people working together. The people who were serving turkeys, there were groups of people who were left behind,” Totti said. “And you hate to say it, it looks like our seniors were one of those groups. … Through collaboration, you fill more of the gaps that exist in the public services that exist, and that’s how strong our community is.”
Dinkins also credited the help they received in storing turkeys ahead of time, such as in the freezer at Country Style Market downtown, where owner Steve Fernandez said, “It was important to us because these guys had come out, they had already purchased about 40 turkeys and they were in a panic because no one would let them store them. … It was just important to make sure that all that money and effort didn’t go to waste because they couldn’t find a place to keep it frozen.”
When asked, Dinkins also thought about how to help his hometown.
A 22-year Army veteran, he grew up in South Park and attended Cleveland Elementary School.
“That’s how I’m built. The military teaches you to take care of everyone first,” Dinkins said. “Take care of your community, take care of your country.”
For more information, contact Dinkins at (810) 941-2422.
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or [email protected].