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Tom Sherry's Letter to Spokane after 20 years of Tom's Turkey Drive: 'Pay it forward'

Tom's Turkey Drive is entering its 20th year, and it wouldn't be possible without the kindness of the Spokane people.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Editor's Note: Before the 20th Tom's Turkey Drive this November, Tom Sherry shares his thoughts on the event and community impact. Have you been impacted by Tom's Turkey Drive? Share your story here.

Tap here to donate to this year's Tom's Turkey Drive

It’s hard to find the words for this note. How do you show gratitude to a whole community with just two words? How do you pay tribute to a region that has continually supported our local families for 20 years? Two decades of contributions, volunteerism, and paying it forward?

It’s hard to sum it up, so I’ll start here: THANK YOU!

It seems like a small sentiment for such an enormous amount of support for the past 20 years of Tom’s Turkey Drive. But, I need to say it. So, thank you, thank you, thank you. 

You collectively have impacted families in every part of the Inland Northwest by providing meals and memories. Because, that’s what it’s all about. The food is life sustaining and its importance can not be diminished.

But, it’s not just groceries that make this project so amazing. It’s the fact that all of you out there have helped families create special holidays and memories that will last a lifetime. Kids wake up and get to enjoy all the smells of cooking turkey, freshly toasting rolls, and their mother’s favorite stuffing. 

Those memories matter. Those memories help build a foundation for holiday celebrations for years to come. And so often, a Tom’s Turkey Drive meal can be a turning point for our local families.

RELATED: Tom's Turkey Drive All-Call: Come tell us your turkey drive story

One year I had a terrible cold and was visiting the doctor’s office. A woman was checking my vitals and getting me set for my appointment. She said, “Are you the guy who does the turkey drive?”

My throat was scratchy so I had to croak back, “Yes.”

She went on to tell me how a few years ago she needed the support and was a Tom’s Turkey Drive recipient. She went on to tell me that she really appreciated it.

“Pay it forward,” I said.

Her reply was simple and heartfelt:

“I have and I will.”

I have never forgotten that exchange. While I felt physically miserable, her words lightened my mood and expressed my exact sentiments about the yearly turkey drive. 

We have worked as a team here at KREM to serve people with dignity and extend the real meaning of Thanksgiving by empowering families to make a meal and memories. But all of us hope that for most people, Tom’s Turkey Drive will provide a helping hand when needed and that families can then turn around and provide the hand-up to others when possible. And we see it all the time. 

I talk to people each year who now volunteer for Tom’s Turkey Drive because they know what it’s like to need that help. We interview mothers and fathers who were able to provide that most cherished of American holiday meals and now pay it forward by serving others. And, I’ve heard it at the doctor’s office when I was feeling pretty lousy and needed some cheer.

So now, 20 years into the project, I’m reaching out to share those feelings with you. I want you all to know that, however you give, however you volunteer, and whenever you need a hand, that Tom’s Turkey Drive is a success because people care. 

We are a community that may know hard times, but better yet, we know how to rise above the struggle when we work together. We have survived snowstorms and horrific windstorms. We have battled years of economic crisis and employment struggles. And through it all, kindness, perseverance, and commitment have risen to the top. You have held yourselves to a high standard and the benefits have paid off.

And I would be remiss in not specifically thanking our Tom’s Turkey Drive partners. These are businesses and groups that have made this massive event work. None of it would happen without the support of our partners’ financial support, volunteerism, and coordination. There are so many, I can’t name them all, but here are a few I would like to note.

RELATED: Tom's Turkey Drive T-Shirt Contest 2019

Rosauers has been the best partner we could have hoped to have during the last couple of decades. My favorite memory of them is working all night during the windstorm to open the doors at 5am so Tom’s Turkey Drive could happen as usual. Nothing was usual the year of 2015, but it was one of our most successful turkey drives to date. 

A special thank you to Numerica Credit Union. When no one knew how to take online donations, we turned to you to help boost our ability to raise needed funds. You have continued to be a vital part of the turkey drive and we can’t thank you enough. 

Then there is the story about the little boxes of muffin mix and stuffing we used to provide before the local men and women at Franz stepped in. Now 11,000 families enjoy fresh rolls and stuffing. Thank you my friends, I know you are busy right now at the Spokane bakery getting ready. 

The Dairy Farmers of Washington and Darigold took our bags to a whole different level when they provided 11,000 gallons of locally produced milk. Milk is one of the top items requested at food banks. I will happily milk a cow anytime for our local farmers. Sorry in advance to that poor cow. 

And to Itron. When we wanted to expand the distribution, the company wrote a check so we could rent the arena for the day. You helped us keep people warm and safe while they could access new services.

And then there is Starbucks. Want a pumpkin spice latte? So do I. Come get one at our annual Tom’s Turkey Drive @ Starbucks Day. It’s now a major fundraiser for the cause.

As we head toward the 20th anniversary of Tom’s Turkey Drive, I encourage you to read the impactful numbers, hear the stories of people helped, and celebrate the mile markers accomplished. And then, I encourage you to join us again as we strive to feed 11,000 families. Because when Inland Northwest families need help—you answer. And for that, I can only say thank you.

See you at Tom’s Turkey Drive, November 22nd & 23rd,

Tom Sherry


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