One of the largest charitable Thanksgiving efforts in town starts tomorrow morning in the parking lot of Bikini's off I-35. Operation Turkey started in Austin in 2000 and has since expanded to 29 cities across the country.
We called up Operation Turkey's Richard Bagdonas to ask a few questions about their effort.
KUT News: Can you explain the scope and size of Operation Turkey?
Richard Bagdonas: You bet. Back in 2000, we started with one meal. Since then, it has grown at an incredible clip. Every Thanksgiving, we are eight times larger than Meals on Wheels. We are 4,000 meals delivered in Austin. Last year, we had 1,800 volunteers show up. We feed 40 percent of the homeless. There are currently about 10,000 homeless people in Austin, 1,500 of which are children, and Operation Turkey can handle 40 percent of them.
KUT News: What kind of help do you need most right now?
Bagdonas: Actually, we run this like a military operation. When people show up, they're assigned duties based on need, and based on the number of volunteers we have. We just ask people to show up at Bikinis at North IH-35, or Bikini's on 6th Street at 8:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Then of course, we also have the Turkey Tailgate happening on Wednesday. We have to cook the turkeys the day before Thanksgiving because this year we're going to be cooking a little over 180 turkeys. So the day before, we get competition pit barbeque smoker teams that come out, and we have huge smokers that can handle 30 or 40 turkeys at a time. Then we boil the 900 pounds of potatoes that will be needed for the next day.
KUT News: Wow, where do you do that?
Bagdonas: We do that at Bikini's at 6501 North IH-35. The thing starts at about 7 am and it goes until about 6 pm. That's also the place we ask volunteers and just the general public to bring donations of clothing or toiletries.