Elon University’s Turkeypalooza Fed Hundreds of Locals in Need on Thanksgiving

Hundreds of community members received a hot meal prepared and delivered with love on Thanksgiving Day, thanks to Elon Dining at Sullivan Foundation partner school Elon University. The meals were courtesy of Elon University’s Turkeypalooza, the annual event in which the leadership teams from Elon Dining, campus dining provider Harvest Table Culinary Group and Auxiliary Services prepare and deliver meals to community partners for Thanksgiving.

“One of our pillars of what we do is trying to help out the community,” said Executive Chef Jay Vetter. “And what better way than to help out this time of the year? I think it gives our staff some pride in what we’re doing.”

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Elon staff delivered nearly 1,000 meals during this year’s Turkeypalooza, with 500 going to First Baptist Church of Burlington and 200 more delivered to Allied Churches of Alamance County. For the first time in the event’s history, Elon also delivered 95 meals to the Burlington Housing Authority and 90 meals to four senior centers in Alamance County.

“We all live in this community, so it’s important for us to help, and I think as big of an organization as Harvest Table is, we should give back to the community,” said Laura Thompson, regional district manager of Harvest Table. “I think it’s an important part of who we are.”

this photo shows Elon staff making food for Elon University's Turkeypalooza

A team works together to make a batch of mac and cheese for Elon University’s Turkeypalooza.

As has become tradition, the dining management team spent the Monday before Thanksgiving Day cooking the meals inside Lakeside Dining Hall’s kitchen. Meals of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans and other Thanksgiving staples were prepared by Elon chefs happy to use their talents to support their community.

“As a cook, you want to please people — that’s why I got into this job,” Vetter said. “And, as Elon Dining, that’s what we do. We feed people, we nurture people, and this is just a little extra special because you start to think about people who aren’t as fortunate, and we’re able to provide for them. It puts a smile on my face.”

For several years, Turkeypalooza has provided meaningful experiences for Carrie Ryan, who was active in the community as an Elon student and has continued to seek opportunities for service as director of auxiliary services. Ryan said the event gives the Elon community the chance to connect to its neighbors and help meet their needs.

“Seeing that need and knowing that we can help is important,” Ryan said. “The looks on the faces of the people receiving the food is just remarkable and reminds us that we do have resources at this university, and we need to find ways to give back.”

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On Tuesday, Nov. 26, a caravan of volunteers led by an Elon Catering box truck hit the road to deliver meals to community partners across Burlington. One of the stops included a visit to Allied Churches of Alamance County. Allied Churches fights hunger and homelessness in Alamance County with a 24/7 emergency shelter, community kitchen, food pantry and more for members of the community in need. Allied Churches leaders said they are grateful for Elon Dining’s act of service.

“It means a whole lot to us because we serve people that probably won’t even get a meal,” said Sabrina Corbett, case manager, volunteer coordinator and housing specialist at Allied Churches. “So for Elon to take time to prepare the meals and bring them to us, and we can give it to the community, that makes us feel really good because we know that there is hunger in Alamance County, and we’re trying to stop that.”

As they delivered meals across Burlington and felt the gratitude of their neighbors, Elon staff were reminded of an important message just in time for Thanksgiving.

“We sometimes forget that we’re very privileged to have a job that we love and a job to come to every day, but there are families out there that struggle, and for us to be able to give back and have that opportunity to give back is so important,” Thompson said.

This story about Elon University’s Turkeypalooza was adapted slightly from the original article appearing on the Elon University website.

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