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SATURDAY: Blessed to Be a Blessing, Cargill partner to give out 1,000 turkeys

 

BY BROOKE R. CANTRELLE

L’OBSERVATEUR

 

B2BB: School Board, DA’s Office have supported this event

 

RESERVE — This year, Blessed to Be a Blessing and Cargill are extending the reach of their annual turkey giveaway to provide a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings to 1,000 St. John the Baptist Parish families.

The drive-thru giveaway will be held Saturday, Nov. 21 at East St. John High School in Reserve. Distribution will begin at 7 a.m. and continue until all of the turkeys are gone.

Peas, cranberry sauce, cornbread, mac and cheese and a two-liter drink will also be included. This giveaway is for St. John Parish residents only; a valid ID or driver’s license and a utility bill are required to confirm residency.

Unlike in previous years, a voucher will not be required to receive a turkey.

Blessed to Be a Blessing founder Eliza Eugene said this event will follow all CDC regulations and state guidelines. Volunteers will be required to undergo temperature checks and wear facial coverings at all times while serving the public. Recipients can remain safe inside of their cars while in the drive-thru.

The annual turkey giveaway began five years ago after Cargill became a sponsor in Blessed to Be a Blessing’s back to school Backpack Extravaganza.

Eugene sent Cargill some cupcakes as a token of appreciation and learned Cargill representatives wanted to have a meeting with her. During the meeting, both parties discussed ways in which they could continue collaborating to have an even greater impact on the community.

Cargill is dedicated to feeding the world, and that mission went hand in hand with Eugene’s desire to start a Thanksgiving giveaway.

“Years ago, I would buy turkey parts and a little mac and cheese, and I would give it to the elderly. Then Cargill came along,” Eugene said. “Now I no long have to buy only what I can afford, which was turkey parts and a few sides. Now we can give a full meal to 1,000 families.”

The inaugural Thanksgiving Giveaway distributed 300 turkeys to the community. The Blessed to Be a Blessing/Cargill partnership has increased its reach throughout the past five years, elevating the giveaway from 300 to 500 to 700 turkeys. This year, the two groups are blessed to provide 1,000 turkeys to families in need, and the need is greater than ever, according to Natasha Bates of Cargill.

“At Cargill, our motto is, ‘We Feed the World.’ We know that 2020 has been difficult for a lot of people, so we want to be able to help,” Bates said. “The only way we know how to do so is by feeding our community. We’re grateful we’re in a place that we’re able to be in a position to help. We look forward to the turkey giveaway every year, and now we are in our fifth year.”

The St. John Parish District Attorney’s Office and St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools have also been a great help in organizing the logistics of this annual event.

This year, new Superintendent Dr. Lynett Hookfin is joining the effort. In the past, Eugene worked with the schools to secure vouchers for students in need.

“Now, because of COVID-19 and not as many kids actually being in school, we had to change up how we were going to do it,” Eugene said. “Nevertheless, Dr. Hookfin was in full support of working with us and doing everything she could so families knew we were having this event and the numbers have increased this year. We welcomed her on board.”

The wellbeing of children is linked to the wellbeing of families and the community, according to Eugene.

“Ultimately, we are concerned about families because we are concerned about kids,” Eugene said. “One hundred percent of the kids in the parish eat free lunch, so that tells you the minimum income of more than 4,000 families is anywhere from $12,000 to $13,000 a year. There is a need there. We want to be able to touch as many of those families along with our veterans, seniors and handicapped.”