Utica, N.Y. - Two records were broken during Friday's annual Utica Food Pantry Turkey Giveaway.
First, a record 800 turkeys were given out.
Utica Food Pantry President Russ Brooks says last year the pantry gave out a record 660 turkeys and this year he wasn't sure he was even going to get 500 turkeys donated because more people are out of work due to COVID, "I didn't know if we were going to be able to pull this off this year. We've had so many demands of the pantry and the demand is so great for this giveaway, and you wonder how you're going to do it."
Brooks says he and the board members of the Utica Food Pantry were ecstatic to see the donations start pouring in this past weekend, after getting the word out that the pantry was in need of so many turkeys, and he says the donations far exceeded anyone's expectations, "Basically all I am and the other pantry members, we're the middleman. You know it's the people that contribute these turkeys who want to help those that don't have it, and then we handle it and arrange it and give it to the needy."
Sandy Zagorski of Utica was first in line Friday morning, arriving at 6:30 A.M., "Me and my family will appreciate everything that these organizations and these food banks do for us. I mean it's a big help because I lost my job and I'm waiting to hear back from them."
Zagorski says she lost her job because of COVID.
The second record broken on Friday, the largest single donation from an individual in the history of the Utica Food Bank came in from a gentleman who lives in Syracuse.
Utica native Gary Thurston, who has lived in the Syracuse area since he graduated from Utica College a few decades ago and started his own construction company says he saw the story on wktv.com last weekend regarding the Utica Food Pantry's need for turkeys and decided to help the organization feed families in his home town in the days and months to follow Thanksgiving, "I was born and raised on Downer Avenue in West Utica, received a college education at Utica College and left Utica after that, but we still have family here and our hearts are still here obviously. There's just so much need out there that needs to be filled."
Brooks say this will help enormously, in fact he says with the purchasing power of the pantry, that $10,000 will allow the pantry to purchase about $60,000 in food, "Do I believe in Devine intervention, absolutely."
If you would like to donate to the Utica Food Pantry, you can do so by bringing non-perishable food items to the pantry or send a check to :
Utica Food Pantry
729 Broadway St.
P.O. Box 306
Utica, NY 13502