Over 300 turkeys were gifted to families in need during the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler's annual Thanksgiving food distribution on Nov. 15.
Federation President Marvin Miller said the staff and volunteers prepared for months to gather enough turkeys and other Thanksgiving Day groceries for people in the community. It took four hours, he said, but all of the turkeys were handed out.
"They came early, and they left late," he said. "We accommodated them all."
Miller said the Federation begins preparing for the Thanksgiving handouts months in advance. Even for normal food distributions, he said, the Jewish Federation spends between $10,000 and $12,000 a week to buy food from the Second Harvest Food Bank. That's at a discounted rate, too, Miller said.
Miller said that this year, more than any other year, there were many happy people at the distribution.
"There were plenty of smiles and happy faces," Miller said. "It really was a pleasure, and a lot of families came here and they ... thanked us profusely for giving them the turkeys."
Now that Thanksgiving's distributions are complete, the Federation will begin preparing for "Chistmakkah" — that's what Miller calls the holiday food distribution event for the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays.
Miller said anyone who wants to donate to help feed families can bring donations to the Jewish Federation at 470 Andalusia Avenue. While the federation does accept other in-kind types of donations, financial contributions help the most, he said.
"Cash is king," he said. "Same as everybody does in their own home, they shop every week ... Well, we're doing the same thing here. We have to shop every week, buying groceries, only we're feeding the whole community."
Rabbi Rob Lennick, the Jewish Federation executive director, said that over the last several months, more people have come to the federation needing food — the Jewish Federation is now serving around 100 families a week, where it used to serve 70.
"It's a special place when you can help families have a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings," he said.
Lennick said the generosity of the community is what made the Thanksgiving Day distribution possible.
"The need is really growing," he said. "But the generosity of the community is growing, too."
Multiple local organizations showed up on Nov. 15 to help deliver the Thanksgiving food to families, he said, including missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Miller said there were twice as many volunteers this year as there have ever been before.
"I can't thank them all enough," Miller said.
Lennick said the Jewish Federation has always served people from the community, regardless of their faith. Everyone who volunteers with the Jewish Federation knows that "but for the grace of God, this could be any one of us," he said.
"We don't just give away food," Lennick said. "We're purveyors of empathy."