Just a few hours after Steve Samcoff had a tooth extraction he couldn’t afford, he carried a frozen turkey on one hip and a paper bag holding all the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner on the other.
Samcoff, whose face was still numb, and his girlfriend Crystal Labute were among 7,000 families who attended Tom’s Turkey Tuesday at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Their young daughter, Savannah, bounced on Labute’s shoulders.
Labute carried another turkey and bag, destined for the elderly neighbor who paid to have Samcoff’s tooth pulled.
“We’re blessed to have her in our life,” Samcoff said.
KREM-TV, led by chief meteorologist Tom Sherry, partnered with Second Harvest and the Salvation Army to provide 11,000 turkey dinners for families that can’t afford one. About 2,000 volunteers have helped with the turkey drive and giveaway since Friday. On Tuesday, hundreds helped distribute 7,000 of the dinners. The remaining 4,000 will go to families in outlying communities.
Hundreds of families waited in line from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Some even arrived as early as 4 a.m. to wait, eager to be among the first to get a meal. Early Tuesday afternoon, the line stretched around the building. Dozens of families, broad grins on their faces, wandered home down Boone Avenue, food in hand and laughing.
“We definitely need the help,” said Labute, who has two other children.
Tom’s Turkey Drive and Turkey Tuesday are in their 14th year, and Sherry said the program has grown since its early days. Bags now contain more food, more families arrive to receive a bag and several sponsors have invested in the program, including a farm in Central Washington that provides 56,000 pounds of potatoes each year.
Rosauers Supermarkets sold the bags and turkeys for $20 last weekend, providing enough food to feed a family of four. Though the bags once included a turkey, a box of muffin mix and a bag of instant potatoes, families now receive fresh rolls, stuffing mix, potatoes, several cans of vegetables and the centerpiece turkey.
“I think the beauty of this is that for a $20 donation, a $20 bill, which most folks can do, families can do something huge,” Sherry said.
Shannon Kinney, Second Harvest’s events director, said this is the food bank’s largest event all year.
With the increasing cost of food and recent federal cuts to food assistance programs, the need for the turkey drive has grown, Kinney said.
“They’re all just so thankful,” she said of recipients.
Kami Newcomb and her daughter Sophia waited in line early in the afternoon.
Newcomb’s husband is out of work, so times have been tough for the family. This is their second year attending the turkey drive.
“It really helps,” Newcomb said. “We don’t have much family in this area. If we didn’t do this, we wouldn’t have Thanksgiving.”