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Colby Ramshaw, 8, from Cub Scout Pack 901 in Londonderry, loads a turkey onto a donated FedEx truck, during the annual Tons of Turkeys food drive at the John E. Devine Drive store to benefit New Horizons for New Hampshire Food Pantry in Manchester on Saturday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Tons of Turkeys drive aims to help

MANCHESTER -- It's become as much of a community tradition as turkey and stuffing: Hundreds of area residents contributed to the annual Tons of Turkeys food drive Saturday, even as many of their neighbors were lining up at New Horizons food pantry for help.

Jay Coffey is assistant program director and the morning drive DJ at 96.5 The Mill, which organizes the annual food drive for New Horizons with Hannaford supermarkets. He said this year's drive collected just over 20 tons of turkeys, topping the 2011 total of 18.4 tons.

The New Hampshire Union Leader co-sponsors the annual event.

For six hours at six participating stores in Manchester, Bedford and Goffstown, Hannaford customers bought turkeys and boxed "feasts" or donated cash for the cause. The store in the East Side Plaza had collected its first ton of turkeys by 10:30 a.m.

A man and his 8-year-old grandson picked out six turkeys to donate. Another man was returning a giant turkey because it wouldn't fit in his fryer, but saw the Tons of Turkeys sign and donated the big bird instead.

Nikki Adamtzikis was shopping with her sister Maria and 4-year-old daughter Jaylah. They saw the sign and the sisters bought a turkey on the spot, "Just to help people that need it," she said.

Truckloads of the donated food were delivered all day to the downtown food pantry, where dozens of volunteers distributed boxes to a steady line of clients.

Barbara Kimball is the food pantry manager at New Horizons; she brought four generations of her family to help with the day's work. "You just get this warm feeling you're really helping out the community," she said.

"I'm very proud of the volunteers," Kimball said. "Without them, we couldn't do this."

Her 9-year-old granddaughter Christa Kimball said she likes volunteering. "It's fun to help people," she said.

Volunteering at New Horizons has become a tradition for the New Hampshire Freedom, a professional women's tackle football team.

"We just like helping out our community," said Tamesha Clagon, a running back and linebacker.

It's also a matter of faith for her, she said. "God tells me to do that, so I do it."

Volunteer Jean St. Marie brought along her 9-year-old granddaughter, Jillian. "I think it's fun helping out people," the girl said.

"So they can have the same things that we're having."

St. Marie said she thinks it's important for youngsters to learn that there are people less fortunate than themselves. Seeing how many children were helping at New Horizons Saturday, she said, "gives me hope."

It's a reminder of what Thanksgiving is all about, she said: "Sharing what you have."

Kimball expects the Tons of Turkeys food drive will provide Thanksgiving dinners for about 1,200 families this year.

She said she hasn't seen many signs that the economy is improving. "I have people still coming in that have lost their jobs. They don't have anywhere else to go."

Back at the Manchester Hannaford store, Heather Bishop was helping keep track of donations. "It's one of those events where you can actually see the good you're doing," said Bishop, who works at WZID, sister station to The Mill.

"We usually sit in a small, padded room all day and talk to ourselves. It's awesome to see the reach that you have and the good you can do."


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