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    200 Turkeys for a Special Meal

    Virginia Knights continue Thanksgiving tradition

    by Gerald Korson 10/27/2019

    Hundreds of homeless, homebound and elderly residents of Northern Virginia will have cause for gratitude this year as they partake in a lavish Thanksgiving dinner courtesy of their local Knights of Columbus council.

    It’s the 35th consecutive year for the event hosted at the Knights of Columbus hall by the Edward Douglass White Council 2473 in Arlington, Va. Since 2008, it has been co-chaired by Thom Galvin and his wife, Marijo.

    It’s a major production, but the Galvins have it down to a science. The whole effort begins anew each October.

    First, Marijo contacts local homeless shelters, churches, low-income housing developments, Arlington County Social Services, Meals on Wheels, and other assistance services to extend invitations and ascertain how many guests they will be serving. Then begins their community outreach as they seek donations of the food, services, and cash required to make it all happen.

    They ask local transportation companies to cut their rates on the day of the dinner and schools to lend their smaller buses to help pick up and deliver guests to the dinner. They also reach out to local bakeries to donate baked goods.

    Then, of course, there’s the main course, requiring the donation of turkeys – lots of them. This year they solicited some 200 turkeys to feed an anticipated crowd of 2,400 guests, including meals delivered to homebound individuals.

    “Marijo put notices out in all local church bulletins, mass email notifications and word of mouth in the community for volunteers,” Thom explained, “Luckily, since we have been doing this for so long, we have volunteers in the community that consistently donate cooked turkey or their time, year after year.” 

    On the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, “we have an all-volunteer carving team,” he said, who prepare an estimated ton of turkey meat, white and dark.

    On Thanksgiving morning, about 4 a.m., the Galvins and about 10 volunteer Knights begin cooking all the side dishes and trimmings. Volunteers take care of the decorating, hospitality, and cleanup.

    “Of all the volunteers that help execute Turkey Day, 70 percent are Knights and families and the other 30 percent come from the local community,” Thom said.

    Serving 200 turkeys to 2,400 people is a far cry from the first Thanksgiving meal the council served. The whole thing started when Richard Duff, an ex-Marine chef who used to prepare meals for up to 4,000 service personnel at once, hatched the idea in 1984. That year there were five volunteer Knights who carved up five turkeys to a much smaller crowd. But Duff – who moved several years later – essentially “wrote the playbook” that the Galvins use now for pulling off the Thanksgiving dinner. 

    The annual event is something the entire community looks forward to each November, Thom said, and it benefits far more than just the diners it serves.

    “This brings an outreach to our community in the name of God, on such a special day of thanks,” he explained, “and it teaches all our young families and future brother Knights what it means to be a part of the community and a part of the Knights of Columbus.”



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