The day before about 40,000 people will gather to enjoy Thanksgiving Day meals prepared and served by charities throughout Colorado Springs and El Paso County, Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado was almost 5,000 turkeys short of meeting its collection quota.
Food pantries, soup kitchens and churches make up the 147 agencies partnering with Care and Share that have requested nearly 10,000 turkeys for Thursday's holiday, but donations have come in too slowly for comfort, programs director Jennifer Mariano said.
"We are sitting at about 54 percent of the requests we need to meet for our partner agencies," Mariano said. "If we don't collect the total we need, the agencies won't be able to fill their clients' requests and they will have to purchase turkeys, for which many don't have the funds."
THANKSGIVING MEALS IN THE REGION
Free turkey and the trimmings will be served 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday at the Salvation Army, 908 Yuma St.; Fountain Valley Senior Center, 5745 Southmoor Drive, Fountain; Venue 515, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs. Transportation and meal delivery for the nonambulatory (free); 636-5266; 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Aspen Mine Center at 166 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek.
While collecting donations is always a challenge, Mariano said this year has been difficult because the deadline to fill requests is getting so close and the food bank still needs help from donors.
Economic trends and struggles could explain why donations have not reached a pace that will set Care and Share at ease, Mariano said.
"As a shopper myself, I've noticed that there aren't as many sales as usual for turkeys, so that could be one reason," she explained. "We've also heard from lots of families that they lost income because of sequestration and furloughs, so donors who want to do more can't because they don't have the means."
Care and Share partners with many companies to meet the community's hunger needs, such as Kroger and Del Monte, which donate food regularly. Panera Bread franchises in Colorado Springs joined the hunger fight five years ago, offering discounts and promotions to customers who donate turkeys for the organization.
"We began our annual drive last Monday at all locations in Colorado Springs, offering a $1 off coupon on a turkey sandwich or a turkey salad to every customer who drops off a turkey," said Missy Robinson, senior marketing manager with Panera Bread. "We will continue to accept donations until Thanksgiving Day, as along as people want to help out."
Finding themselves in a similar position, Marian House Catholic Charities needed hundreds of turkeys last week. In an attempt to rally the community's help, director of communications Rochelle Schlortt sent a memo to donors, partnering agencies and local media. The result, Schlortt said, was astounding.
"Starting Friday we just got bombarded with donations, we took in more than 300 in just one day," Schlortt said. "They've kept coming in since, and we've made our quota. We're extremely grateful to the community."
Before the rush of donations, Care and Share had given 75 turkeys to Marian House as a show of solidarity in case it didn't make its quota.
"They helped us out when we thought we wouldn't get enough donations," Schlortt said. "After collecting more than 900 turkeys over the weekend, we sent 100 turkeys back to them, to help them out like they did with us. Last year we ended giving them about 300 turkeys. All the charities work together."
As holidays loom closer, it's not unusual for charities to feel pressure to meet their clients' requests and with recent economic and job market struggles, it's become normal for donations to come in with less momentum, Schlortt said.
"This happens every year. Some years the donations start rolling in earlier and we are more comfortable, but our ability to go to Care and Share and deliver an excess of donations is really a reflection of the efforts of all the partner agencies in Colorado Springs and the community's generosity," Schlortt said.
Care and Share will be accepting donations through 3 p.m. Wednesday at 2605 Preamble Pt. Donors can text "turkey" to 41010 and a $10 donation to Care and Share will be charged to their cell phone bill.
"We have tremendous purchasing power," Mariano said. "We can buy 10 lbs of food for every dollar we receive, so monetary donations really are most useful."
Marian House will also take donations at their location on 14 W. Bijou St., from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday.