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MEETING NEEDS: Turkeys from Heaven brings focus to others

Stephen Sanders’ eyes narrowed slightly in thought. He paused before he spoke.

“This is not about me,” Sanders said as he scanned the field of smoking grills. “It’s an avenue for me to contribute something – to help people. It’s a blessing that Kelly has brought about in my life.”

Sanders’ thoughts were about the local Turkeys from Heaven program that was initiated by his wife, Kelly, four years ago and bought into wholehearted by hundreds of people in and around Pike County.

On Friday morning, exuberant grill masters had 439 turkeys smoking on 20-plus grills and 100 or more women and children were merrily busy putting together bean casseroles, packing meal baskets and coloring turkeys to decorate the baskets for more than 400 families. There, the spirit of Christmas prevailed.

“Is this rewarding? Absolutely,” Stephen Sanders said. “Too often, we are so caught up in our social circles that we get comfortable in overlooking the needs of others because we have more than we need and maybe more than we deserve. But there are others that don’t have what they need. We can get comfortable overlooking that.”

Sanders said his wife’s compassion for others has made him aware of the plight of those less fortunate. He now looks at life through her eyes.

“Kelly didn’t come from a household where they had the extra things,” he said. “She understands what it’s like to have needs. So she sees and understands the needs of others.”

Sanders said he knows business but his wife has compassion for those in need.

“Kelly recognizes needs and she finds ways to help people,” he said. “God put Kelly in my life to show me ways to help people. She has opened that avenue to me and it is making a difference in my life. She is a blessing to me.”

Turkeys from Heaven is an opportunity for others to step out of the comfort zone that Stephen Sanders said is too often overlooked.

And, it’s an opportunity that is greatly appreciated by the hundreds of volunteers that are needed to make Turkeys from Heaven a success.

The program began four year ago with 150 Christmas meals delivered to those who were experiencing difficulties in their lives. The program has grown every year and now reaches beyond Pike County to adjoining counties where awareness has been brought to great needs. Friday more than 400 Turkeys from Heaven meals were delivered to families in and around Pike County by more than 100 volunteers.

Most Turkeys from Heaven volunteers are veterans of the program.

“When you get involved, you see what it means, not just to those who receive the meals, but to those who are involved,” said Carla Rice, who is a four-year volunteer. “There are many people in Pike County who need and appreciate, not only the meals, but knowing someone cares. Being a part of Turkeys from Heaven is a blessing.”

Being involved is stepping out of one’s comfort zone and looking directly into the faces of the needs that exist. Those who are involved with Turkeys from Heaven no longer can or want to overlook the plight of those in need.

Jan Baxter Lee, a member of Sigma Gamma Rho, participated with her sorority sisters in Turkeys from Heaven for the first time.

“Community service is what we do and Turkeys from Heaven is a wonderful program and recognizes the needs of people in our community,” she said. “It’s a chance for us to be involved and it just makes you feel good to do good for others. It’s hands-on and that makes a difference.”

Kelly Sanders said there is no way to express appreciation to the hundreds of people who support Turkeys from Heaven, from the volunteers to those who purchase turkeys and make donations to the program.

“When you are involved in a program like Turkeys from Heaven, you receive a blessing because you see the need more closely and you feel it a little bit more,” she said.

And, to quote the mean one, Mr. Grinch, “Maybe Christmas, perhaps – means a little bit more” to those who step out of their comfort zones and come face to face with the needs of others.