Tom Sherry has a familiar face.
In fact, the longtime KREM meteorologist is one of Spokane’s most recognizable people.
But sometimes people connecting with him has nothing to do with forecasting the weather on TV.
Years ago, he was in a doctor’s office. “I really felt lousy.”
A woman came in to chart his vitals. She looked at Sherry, who was not at his most ebullient. Her expression brightened.
“Hey, you’re the turkey guy!”
Yeah, he’s the turkey guy.
The staffer at the doctor’s office told Sherry that years before, during a rough point in her life, she had availed herself of a donated Thanksgiving meal courtesy of Tom’s Turkey Drive. Now she’s one of legions who donate to the program that annually provides holiday meals to more than 10,000 area families.
“To me, that’s success,” said Sherry. “Seeing people we have helped turn around and give back.”
Back in 2000, Sherry was looking for a project. You know, a good cause to which he could harness his TV persona.
He was aware that there were a number of programs aimed at helping local families at Thanksgiving. But he thought, what if it all could be done under one big umbrella?
Launched that year, Tom’s Turkey Drive has since provided about 150,000 Thanksgiving dinners for local families in need.
The effort is a benefit for the Second Harvest food bank network. Corporate support comes from Rosauers, Numerica Credit Union, Avista, Itron and others.
Sherry is the face of the drive. “I’m not an organizer,” he said.
Second Harvest, the community service folks at KREM and many volunteers do much of the heavy lifting.
But Sherry doesn’t just show up at Rosauers on the weekend before Thanksgiving, smile through an on-air segment or two and call it a day.
He brings his considerable energy, good cheer and Spokane star power to the undertaking all year long.
And he sweats out the success of the drive. “There’s a lot of pressure. I feel very personally responsible.”
There is, after all, the little matter of his name being on the event.
The thing is, Sherry would like to see the need for Tom’s Turkey Drive shrink. “This isn’t really a program we want to see grow.”
In the meantime, the demand is there.
“It’s amazing how everybody comes through. It’s really an amazing event. There is no BS. And nobody makes a dollar off this.”
Sherry enjoys sharing credit with those involved. But it all starts with the turkey guy.