With the sun shining down on the morning of Tuesday, November 22nd, the Cheverus Key Club was prepared for their annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive. The club has put on its Turkey Drive since the 1960’s, and, along the way, has greatly expanded its efforts. Although the Covid-19 pandemic and food shortages limited the size of the operation over the past two years, club President Caris Welsh was determined to get the Drive back to its usual size. “This year, our goal was to feed 400 local families in the Greater Portland area by giving them Thanksgiving meals including milk, stuffing, vegetables, dessert, and a turkey. Last year, we were only able to feed 300 families…It felt great to be able to reach 100 more families this year.”
The effort to bring together the Thanksgiving meals began in late October, with daily announcements as well as class-specific emails reminding students to bring in their goods. The objective was clear: each class was to donate enough of two items to fill all 400 boxes, with each student bringing in five of each. In addition to these Thanksgiving staples, including carrots, stuffing, and gravy, each student was expected to donate a turkey. Throughout the month of November, Dr. Moran eagerly greeted students outside in his signature turkey costume, looking for turkeys in students’ hands. As the Turkey Drive got closer, the Key Club continued to sort their donations and fill the boxes of meals.
With just over a week to go the club's effort had a minor scare, with only 40 turkeys having been donated - only a tenth of the way to their goal. In the final days, however, the Cheverus community rallied to donate the needed turkeys, even surpassing their goal, and were eventually able to donate enough extra turkeys to local food banks.
Finally, with the boxes packed, and Thanksgiving only two days away, the day of the Turkey Drive arrived. Students enjoyed an x-order schedule accompanied by a Thanksgiving Interfaith Service. Rabbi Gary Berenson of Etz Chaim Synagogue in Portland led the service. The Turkey Drive began as the over 100 members of Key Club, representing more than one-third of the school's population, started the process of packing boxes. Each box was given a gallon of milk and a turkey, while boxes were double-checked to ensure they included the necessary items. The Drive benefited a large number of families in need, both directly, and through local community agencies. Many agencies, including Wayside Food Programs and Stroudwater Food Pantry, picked up boxes to give to families, while Cheverus seniors drove to personally deliver meals.
Students delivering meals is one of many that makes the Turkey Drive unique. “My most memorable experience (of this year's Turkey Drive) is when the Key Club Secretary Carolyn Bolduc and I were able to deliver seven boxes of food to families in the Westbrook community this year,” Caris shared. “It is the first time I have been able to personally meet those who receive the meals we put together. I will never forget the kindness, gratitude, and humility they welcomed us with.” The day-long effort brought together the hands of lots of club members, faculty, and the Portland community to make a difference in the lives of 400 families this past Thanksgiving.
While the Turkey Drive is Key Club’s largest event of the year, their efforts do not end, nor did they begin, here. The club has been hard at work since September, not only planning for this event but contributing by way of other drives and activities as a club. These efforts will continue for the rest of the year, and president Caris Welsh is proud of the progress the club has already made this year. “The Key Club Officers, Mrs. Connick, and I have increased the number of events and volunteer opportunities that the over 130 members can participate in this year.” Beyond the club’s leaders, the 134 total members are who make a real difference in what the club accomplishes. With weekly meetings, the Club has been hard at work throughout the fall, getting lots done, including writing cards to residents of the Park Danforth in Portland. Caris is impressed by the efforts of all of the members this year. “It is refreshing to see so many students eager to help, whether it is by donating a book or rolling up their sleeves to count canned goods. I am very optimistic about the club’s future as we have great leaders who are ready to step up to the challenge next year.” Students should be on the lookout as volunteer efforts will continue throughout the school year, as the club seeks to do what Cheverus does best - help others.