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Thanks. Oprah. Turkeys. And More Thanks.

Every year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving the scene is always the same in my kitchen: a 20 lb. turkey roasts in the oven for delivery to a community center three blocks from us that serves a warm holiday meal to hundreds of homeless and low income New Yorkers.

My kids take part in every step—selecting the bird, seasoning it to perfection, watching for the little white thing to pop, and walking it down the street for drop off.

This year—after watching Friday’s extravagant ‘Favorite Things’ gift giveaways on Oprah—our family decided to do something completely different. The inspiration initially came a couple weeks ago when a segment on World News with Diane Sawyer revealed a shortage in turkey donations across the country. The need among families has grown, but the freezers at food pantries, soup kitchens and churches are far from full.

For much less than the cost of just one Philip Stein watch hand-set with 58 diamonds—among the first gifts given to Oprah’s crowd—my kids figured we could buy at least 50 turkeys.

They hit the phones, seeking donations from family and friends. In less than an hour, Jake and Emma had pledges of just over $1,000—more than enough for us to get going to the grocery store.

We bought 50 birds, each ranging between 20 and 25 lbs. “More than a half ton of turkey,” my son proudly said. They’ll be distributed to five shelters this morning, all within a mile of our home in the city.

Believe it or not, the excitement in our house is even greater than what came through the TV screen on Friday from Oprah’s adoring audience. (Of course, everyone in my office—including me—would have killed for a seat in that studio to be lavished with such luxury!) But for us “’tis better to give than receive” has never felt better than right now.

So on this Thanksgiving holiday, allow me to thank YOU—for being here, for attending our events, for participating in our programs, for dialing into our calls, for chatting with us on Facebook and Twitter, and so much more. You inspire us to hustle each and every day in all that we do.

If you can help someone else this Thanksgiving week—by donating a turkey, baking for a friend who’s down, inviting others to join your family feast, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or checking in on someone who’s alone on this holiday—you’ll feel like a million bucks. Guaranteed.

Feel free to share your best deeds for the week here.

Thanks, and have a wonderful—and safe—Thanksgiving.


  1. Amelia Vestre-Kraemer

    My mom has always donated several turkeys and hams on Thanksgiving and Christmas… for as long as any of us (five kids) can remember. She’s the best cook in the world (we think) and has always prepared an extra Thanksgiving Feast and Christmas Ham for the Retirement home near our house. So when she spent last year in the hospital on Thanksgiving Day (and almost Christmas Day too) we were all devastated.

    I’m glad to report that although our Mom is still recovering she is back at home where she belongs and we feel very blessed to have her back with us… especially during the holiday seasons.

    Mom isn’t able to do quite as much as she used to, but she still foots the bill for the family traditions we’ve always shared. We are all pitching in this year and it’s the first time my “busy husband” and brother in-law have experienced the joy that comes with giving thanks in a whole new perspective. Not to mention the girl friends and boy friend of our siblings.

    Thanks for sharing your story; just reading about other’s experiences is very heartwarming. Mom cried when we read your story to her and we know it’s because she feels the same way you do about making the holidays more plentiful for everyone regardless of how much money they have.

    As mom says, we couldn’t enjoy the many blessings we’ve experienced if we knew our neighbors were doing without.

  2. 2gether We Build

    Hello Tory,

    I am a giver as well. I was generous this year by donating a few non-parishables to my church who distributed them to various organizations. Last year I was able to give a little more. I gave $1000.00 to my local food pantry.
    It felt great. They had a feast set up for the elderly in the community who otherwise wouldn’t have had a Thanksgiving.
    The irony of your email this morning Tory, I was just speaking to my daughter earlier before she went off to school about the coat drive at my church. Reminding her that she has brand new coats she hasn’t even worn two to be exact.She professes that she is going to wear them but, I’m going to talk her into at least letting go of one out of her eight. I also explained to her how there are other people who don’t have one coat. I having been homeless and working on Park Ave. 16years ago take it personally.
    My daughter is abit spoiled. I am part and partial the cause of that she is an only child. Truth be told Tory I don’t think that the giving gene was handed down to my daughter.She has more of the social bug gene even her friends associate her as being stingy though.

  3. Merle Hoch

    The womens’ shelter at my synagogue stays open on Thanksgiving so the residents have a place to be. I will be there volunteering from Noon to 2 PM to help make this possible for them before I go to my niece’s home for dinner with family and good friends.

  4. Debra Fidler

    Thank you to all of you that have donated your time and money to help the less fortunate.

    My compassion is towards the animals. I have 3 and they are my children. Almost two months ago I saw two kittens running across the parking lot of a high traffic area. I tried to trap them but it was impossible to get them. I went and got them some food and water and came back the next day with a borrowed trap. I managed to get them both, I had them fully vetted and the SPCA paid for their spaying and neutering as they were 5 months old according to their teeth. I am hoping to get them on their web site for adoption together as they are siblings. Now I have 5, so they come first. I pisk up little jobs to keep food in their stomachs, they have probably lives their whole lives outside? It will be very hard to part with them but I need to consider my economic state.

    So if your by a pet store or want to make a donation please do not forget all the animals that need to eat, need homes, a soft blanket to lie on.

    Still being unemployed almost after two years I can barely keep a roof over my head. I work two permanent days a week but am seeking a full time position. Trying to keep my hopes, everyday is a struggle., bill collectors calling, food in the refrigerator is at a bare minimum, rent. I am trying so hard to keep it together but feel I am falling apart. I went to the food pantry, I provided the documents they require to get food stamps, now they are asking for more. I have been working since I was 15 and have never applied for assistance before and when I was in their office last week I sat there waiting to speak to a social worker and waited 45 minutes until the girl behind the counter saw me as I moved closer. She yelled out to me, you need an appointment, (the one that told me to have a seat) and that the documents I had provided, a decision would be made in 10 days, no empathy, I know this is happening all over the world. I’ve paid my taxes, worked hard and this is how I get talked to in a room of a lot of illegal’s who are pushing strollers, pregnant talking on their call phones. No wonder people are so down and wanting to end their lives. I get like that too a lot.

  5. CJE

    I stopped feeling jealous of all those prize winners on Oprah when I totaled up the prizes and calculated the income tax they will have to pay on those prizes by April. I’m guessing by Oprah’s description of the audience that day that most of those people are financially ill-prepared for the tax bill.
    I hope they all understand the financial implications of those winnings.
    I am content without all that stuff. I too donated to a Soup Kitchen. I will be grateful to have my children and husband with me on Thanksgiving.
    God Bless you all!!!

  6. Nicole

    I try to keep doing good in mind and habit daily. I do use my earned points at the supermarket for a turkey to donate to the local homeless shelter, but wow Tory, it seems hardly enough. What a great idea and fantastic results!

    My mind is mostly focused on the environment these days though (natural gas hydrofracking), and I take daily action around that. This summer I held a trunk show in my backyard to support a couple of small eco-designers and friends’ businesses.

    But I’m inspired to think outside of the box and plan something bigger. Thanks Tory.

    That said, wow Tory, your turkey drive is so inspiring.

  7. Nancy Hassel

    Hi Tory,
    Thank you for doing so much and for you weekly boost of inspiration through you newsletter. Being in the pet industry, many people don’t think that local food pantry’s also need pet food donations. Many families that need from food pantry’s to help their family, often need to feed their pets too. So this year at our first annual holiday networking event, we are also collecting pet food items that will be donated to local food pantry’s.
    Our event is next week and we are thrilled to be able to do this.
    Also if you are a coupon clipper, but maybe don’t own a pet, most non-profit rescue groups will gladly accept your discarded pet food coupons. So think about that next time your clipping coupons!

    Thank you and have a great Thanksgiving!

  8. Sammie Turner

    I have to say, my mom showed me your post about your kids. I’ve always told her I would donate if I could but now you and your kids (and mom) have shown me — where there’s a will there’s a way.

    I called a bunch of friends — they called a bunch of friends — and now we’re smack dab in the middle of a crusade.

    We went to the store and although we didn’t get 50 turkeys like all of you did, I’m glad to report we did get 32. Good start we think and we all agree that we were shocked at how great it felt to be able to help out. I do believe this is the beginning of a brand new tradition. Thanks!

  9. Sarah Cook

    We did something very similar donating complete turkey dinners to about 20 families! It is such a great feeling to give back to others!

    Sarah Cook,

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