GARDINER — Multiple drive-by turkey drop-offs, in downtown Gardiner and across the river at the Randolph IGA on Saturday, will help the local food bank provide Christmas meals and baskets to an ever-increasing number of families in need.

Mike Mansir, of Farmingdale, a volunteer with the Gardiner-based food bank Chrysalis Place who was collecting turkeys with fellow volunteers Evan Plourde, of West Gardiner, and Al MacMaster, of South Gardiner, throughout a cold Saturday on Water Street in Gardiner, explained why the group was collecting turkeys a few days before Thanksgiving, to be given out not on that holiday but, instead, to be saved for annual Christmas baskets the organization donates to those in need.

The group used to collect donated turkeys in December, after Thanksgiving, Mansir said, until they noticed turkey prices increased as much as 25 cents per pound after Thanksgiving, versus their cheaper cost leading up to the holiday long linked with gorging on turkey. So to make it cheaper for donors to buy and donate turkeys for the Christmas giveaway, volunteers collect them now, when they’re cheaper.

“We get a lot more turkeys that way,” Mansir said. “We’ve got plenty of need out there. We added 10 or 12 families (to those being served by the food bank) this fall. Big families, with seven or eight people in them. I know they say the economy is getting better, but we don’t see that. It is getting worse. Money is getting tighter.”

Nine-year-old Emma Sirios came with her father, David, to donate a folded wad of cash to the cause. David Sirios said the Farmingdale family does something to help others annually at this time of year, including helping to distribute the Christmas baskets from Chrysalis Place the donation they made Saturday helps fund.

Emma explained why: “I can help people who don’t have a lot of money, and it’s fun, too.”

MacMaster said cash donations are as welcome as actual turkeys. He added that people who missed Saturday’s turkey drop event but still want to donate money or plump birds can do so directly to the food bank, on Brunswick Avenue.

Mansir said they assemble 160 to 180 Christmas baskets for families in need a year, including a full meal as well as toys or clothing if there are children in the family.

By shortly before noon they’d collected 32 turkeys in Gardiner, and another group of volunteers had collected 16 in the parking lot of the Randolph IGA, according to Clarence Pelletier, an organizer of the all-volunteer food bank. They planned to collect donations until 2 p.m. in Saturday’s cold air.

To stay warm, Mansir, who has volunteered for the food bank for about 20 years, was clad head to toe in his camouflaged hunting clothing. He said he had no second thoughts about spending Saturday, a prime weekend day in the middle of deer hunting season, on the street collecting frozen turkeys, instead of in the woods hunting deer.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fisherman and a hunter. I love it to death,” he said. “But this takes priority.”

He said he’d get some hunting in during the coming week.

Several drivers didn’t even have to park or get out of their vehicles to drop off their turkeys. They pulled up and stopped in the road next to the group’s trailer with a large wooden box in the middle of it half-full of turkeys, roll down their passenger side windows and pass wrapped and usually bagged turkeys to any of the three men waiting to collecting them, who somewhat gently tossed the turkeys onto the growing pile.

Cathy Wheelock, of West Gardiner, noticed what the group was up to when she was going to the post office. After finishing at the post office, she got into her car, drove to the nearby Hannaford supermarket and came back several minutes later to donate a turkey and large box of other food.

“I think it’s wonderful of people to do things and help others,” Wheelock said, praising the efforts of those collecting turkeys. “I just want people to have a happy Thanksgiving.”

Mansir said local business Pine State Trading agreed to store the turkeys in its freezer for Chrysalis Place until it is time to distribute them the week before Christmas. And the owner of Black Diamond Consultants allowed the three volunteers to set up the trailer and a “Chrysalis Place Turkey Drop” sign in front of their Water Street storefront — and use their restroom — Saturday.

Plourde said area churches also hold fundraisers to help fund Chrysalis Place’s efforts to distribute Christmas baskets.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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