Paying it forward this Thanksgiving
In Johnny Jones’ mind, it was a flavorful, juicy turkey, and his family was able to make it last for days.
The childhood memory sticks out in Jones’ mind because turkey was a luxury for his family when he was growing up in New Orleans, he said.
They would typically spend the holiday with relatives, or put together a meal at home. His mom maybe prepared a small ham or something like that, he said. He can count on one hand the number of turkeys he had on Thanksgiving.
When he was 15, he said, his family received a donated turkey. The final product at that holiday meal was perfect, he said. And then for three or four days, they made it stretch, making sandwiches.
“I don’t know if it was just the turkey, or if it was just the fact that someone donated that turkey and we enjoyed it, but it just left such an impression on me [that’s lasted until] today,” he said. “That joy; maybe it was the fact that we didn’t have to worry about the meals that we were going to have those three or four days that we made it stretch.”
Jones, who now lives in Durham, said he doesn’t know who donated that turkey, so he can’t say “thank you” himself. Instead, he decided to pay it forward.
Before Thanksgiving this year, he helped launch an online fundraiser so he could create similar memories for other people. The fundraising effort raised money so Jones and others could buy 170 turkeys from Kroger.
On Monday, he dropped the majority of the turkeys off in boxes at the Durham branch of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. The nonprofit helps to feed hungry people in 34 counties in the state.
Christy Simmons, spokeswoman for the Food Bank, said in an email that as of Wednesday morning, it had distributed more than 600 turkeys from its Durham branch.
In total from all six branches, about 3,000 turkeys from community and corporate donors were distributed, she said.
Jones said his effort started as an idea, and then he posted it on Twitter. Before he even had the website started, a friend in Las Vegas sent him a donation. Since he had the donation, he said “OK, we have to go through with it now.”
His wife helped him create a website, and he had other partners help with fliers, to plan logistics, and send press releases.
Seeing how the community rallied behind the idea, he said, he now sees how great things can be accomplished by a group of people.
“It doesn’t have to begin on such a large scale,” he said. “It can be just a small idea. We can come together, collaborate, and do great things, and do good deeds.”