Despite frozen fingers and numb noses, Sechrist Elementary School students collected around 220 frozen turkeys during the school’s 10th annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive.
Fifth grade teacher Chad Davis has been running and organizing the event since day one and had things well under control Thursday morning. He split students nearly equally between those tallying the number of turkeys received, those collecting turkeys from drivers, and those stationed near Fort Valley Road with banners advertising the turkey drive.
“When Mr. (Principal John) Albert came on about 10 years ago we asked if we could do this and he said yes,” Davis said. The annual drive helps create a sense of community pride among the students. So much so that Davis has students and parents who don’t go to the school returning each year with a turkey.
“I’ve already had a couple of students who are now in high school stop by this morning on their way to school,” he said. “And that guy that just dropped off a turkey, his last child attended here about five years ago.”
Student Adien Trimble echoed many of his classmates’ thoughts about the drive and its purpose.
“I think it’s really cool, and cold out. I like that it’s going to a good cause,” he said, his turkey hat bobbing in the chilly wind.
Mr. Albert even sees Flagstaff residents who don’t have children or don’t have children who attend Flagstaff Unified School District, dropping off turkeys on their way in to work.
The school usually collects about 120 to 150 frozen turkeys in weights ranging from about 5 pounds to more than 20 pounds, he said. The turkeys are donated to Sunshine Rescue Mission which uses them to fill out Thanksgiving food boxes. The boxes contain the ingredients for an entire Thanksgiving meal. A few of the turkeys are reserved for low-income families in the district.
Davis said the school picked Sunshine Mission because it was the only organization offering Thanksgiving food boxes when the drive started. The school donated to St. Mary’s Food Bank for a few years in the past, but switched back to Sunshine Mission after the St. Mary’s local chapter closed.
The students also keep track of the weight of each turkey and track the amount of turkeys they collect in each half hour of the drive. The drive ran from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. The students use the numbers in their math classes to calculate mean, median, mode, and range. The students also have to write an essay before the drive.
In addition, the students collect money for turkey bowling. The school hadn’t finished calculating how much money was collected Thursday afternoon. Students who bring in a couple of bucks to donate to the collection get to bowl with a ball, not a frozen turkey, for prizes. Donations from people dropping off turkeys or stopping by to donate cash allows students, who may have forgotten their donation, to participate in the games.
The money from the fundraiser goes to support families at the school who need a little extra help this year, Davis said. For example, some of the money is earmarked for a family whose family member was burned in a fire. The family has been making trips back and forth to Phoenix to visit their loved ones and the money will be used to pay for gasoline for the trips.