William & Mary students navigated a maze of brown paper bags and cardboard boxes in the parking lot behind Williamsburg Presbyterian Church Friday afternoon, sorting through piles of yams, green beans, pie crusts and other assorted canned goods. Just when the students were marveling at the number of food items that had been collected, a van pulled up filled with even more goods – and another van-full was expected soon.
The hundreds of canned goods and other items that were collected and sorted that day were part of the Campus Kitchen at William & Mary’s annual “Turkeypalooza” event, which provides Thanksgiving meals to people in need in the City of Williamsburg. The foods were paired with frozen turkeys and delivered to local residents on Friday night. Another delivery is scheduled for tonight. Altogether, the event is providing Thanksgiving meals to approximately 149 local residents this year.
“It honestly doesn’t seem right if you aren’t allowed to have a Thanksgiving because of what’s available to you,” said Molly Bulman ‘12, coordinator of the Campus Kitchen. “Everyone should be able to participate.”
Using food donated from places like Trader Joe’s and Bloom, the Campus Kitchen at W&M provides meals to 180 individuals each week throughout the year. The William & Mary student organization, which is part of 31 Campus Kitchens nationwide, began Turkeypalooza about two years ago. Bulman said that it took time to build relationships with local families so that they felt comfortable in admitting their need during Thanksgiving.
“It’s a tough issue but something that a lot more people need to know about so we can tackle it,” she said.
Chelsea Estancona, advisor for the Campus Kitchen and an AmeriCorps VISTA in the Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship, said that the organization formed new partnerships this year to help provide for the growing need during Thanksgiving.
In addition to private donations, the Campus Kitchen received donated items from the Black Law Students’ Association and the Office of Strategic Initiatives. Additionally, U.S. Army soldiers from Fort Eustis volunteered to sort the donations and prepare them for delivery.
Dozens of William & Mary students also volunteered to help with the event.
“It’s really fun doing the turkey deliveries,” said Cassie Powell ‘12, adding that the best part is seeing people’s faces when they drop off the baskets.
Though Powell, who serves as the co-chair for programming and education of the Campus Kitchen, doesn’t usually work with the food side of the organization, she knows many of the families from the children’s activities that she helps to lead each week.
“It’s kind of a way that we aren’t just coming in and bringing food, but we’re kind of facilitating this community of trust between the neighborhoods and the College,” she said.
Powell said she has really enjoyed working with the Campus Kitchen both during Turkeypalooza and throughout the year.
“It’s been a really affecting, really wonderful experience making those connections with people who are seemingly different than you but really have a lot of the same concerns and ideas,” she said.