At the end of the first week in November, the Denver Rescue Mission was gravely concerned about the lack of turkey donations. Thousands of homeless and low-income men, women, and families were counting on us. We wondered if it was even possible to collect 6,000 turkeys by Thanksgiving. Five lonely turkeys sat in a freezer that could hold thousands. Then along came Southwest—specifically, the Denver Station Manager Dave LaPorte. He heard about the need on a local network, felt compelled to act, and asked CEO Gary Kelly if Southwest Airlines could help.
This week, Southwest Airlines answered the urgent call and donated $50,000 to the Denver Rescue Mission’s Annual Turkey Drive. This donation marks the largest turkey donation in the history of our drive, which spans the last fifteen years. Southwest Employees helped unload a semi-trailer of more than 4,000 birds, and about 50,000 pounds of turkey went into the Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter freezer.
Because of the enormous donation from Southwest Airlines, we are now equipped with enough turkey to serve 1,000 meals to homeless men, women, and children at the annual Great Thanksgiving Banquet hosted by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. At the Banquet-in-a-Box distribution, 1,250 holiday food boxes filled with a turkey and all the fixings will be given to low-income families who cannot afford a Thanksgiving meal. The Mission also acts as a turkey distributor and can now fill a bigger need in the community. We will hand out thousands of birds to smaller nonprofits and local churches, helping them provide a Thanksgiving feast for poor and homeless people in Metro Denver.
Before the Southwest turkeys arrived, we thought about cutting back on this distribution because of the lack of donations. Additional turkeys collected from this drive will serve as the primary food source for the Denver Rescue Mission’s meal programs, providing nearly 700,000 meals throughout the year at our five facilities.
For people around the world, 2009 is proving a challenging year, and Metro Denver has seen the number of homeless individuals and families rise to more than 11,000. Many people need food assistance for the first time in their lives: Veterans, women, men, children, homeless people, and working families. Because of Southwest Airlines, we can now rest easy that folks who depend on the Denver Rescue Mission to provide a holiday meal will receive one. On behalf of our employees and those most in need in our community, I want to thank Southwest Airlines for helping the Denver Rescue Mission continue our 117-year-old commitment to feeding Metro Denver’s hungry.
Brad Meuli is the President and CEO of the Denver Rescue Mission