DeKALB – Thanksgiving is one of Michelle Graham’s favorite holidays.
When she was a young girl, she helped her mom make pies the night before Thanksgiving. She will continue her family’s tradition this year by making 10 pies with her sons, 8-year-old Christopher and 6-year-old Sean.
But as she’s rolling dough and putting pies in the oven, Graham will take a moment to remember and say a prayer for the families that cannot afford a Thanksgiving meal.
She hopes to help DeKalb County families celebrate the holiday together by collecting money, turkeys and food for a Thanksgiving meal.
Graham is a Corps Officer with the Salvation Army, 830 Grove St. in DeKalb. On Friday, the Salvation Army DeKalb partnered with the radio station WLBK to host “Let’s Talk Turkey.” The event helped collect $4,682 in monetary donations and 464 turkeys, helping feed nearly 650 DeKalb County families in need.
Graham met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to talk turkey: How does the fundraiser and collection drive help local families at Thanksgiving?
Milton: What is your role at the Salvation Army DeKalb?
Graham: My husband Keith and I are administrators and pastors at the Salvation Army DeKalb. We are in charge of running the programs and the assistance we give out. Sometimes, people forget that the Salvation Army is a church. We’re a Christian church, similar to the Methodist church. We left the Methodist church in 1865 but kept a lot of the same beliefs.
Milton: What do you and your church believe in?
Graham: We are practicing what we believe as Christians, to do and give unto others as Jesus has. For us, that means soup, soap and salvation. We help meet their physical needs and then their spiritual needs. On Sundays, we have a morning worship service and Sunday school at 10 a.m. My husband does Bible study for adults, and I teach the kids. Sometimes I preach, sometimes he preaches. We are both pastors, Captains, because the Salvation Army uses military-rank titles.
Milton: What is Let’s Talk Turkey?
Graham: Let’s Talk Turkey is our largest drive and collection for Thanksgiving. Our largest drive and collection for Christmas is Freezing for Food, Dec. 6 through 9. These fundraising and collection events are extremely important because they help those that normally can’t afford a good holiday meal at home with their family.
Milton: Why is helping at Thanksgiving important?
Graham: When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of food. You think of turkey and all the fixings. When families can’t afford Thanksgiving, you want to help them out so they can have a meal for the holiday. At Thanksgiving, everyone who is helped receives a box for their meal with a turkey. Local churches and service clubs collect items, so every box also includes other things like mashed potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, a dessert mix and a drink mix.
Milton: How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?
Graham: Keith and I have two boys, 8-year-old Christopher and 6-year-old Sean. For me, Thanksgiving is being together as a family on Thanksgiving Day. When I was younger, my mom and I would spend the night before making pie. I continue that tradition with my family. We usually make about 10 pies.
Milton: What other groups and organizations have made the event possible?
Graham: We partner with the radio station WLBK to host the event. The freezer we use is donated by Sisler’s Ice. I would like to thank both of them. I would also like to thank the service clubs and churches that donate other items for the Thanksgiving boxes. Without them and the community, we couldn’t do what we do.
Milton: Do you have any upcoming events?
Graham: We have Freezing for Food and the Christmas toy distribution coming up. Freezing for Food is to help stock our pantries for the Christmas season. We also help families by giving them toys for their children for Christmas. We allow the parents to choose the items, so they can go “shopping” for the toys. We also have a February school drive for school supplies to help teachers in the DeKalb School District have classroom items. Our regular food pantry is held 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday and 5 to 6:45 p.m. Thursdays.
Milton: How can people help volunteer?
Graham: If people are interested in volunteering, they can call 815-756-4308. Bell-ringing in front of stores like Walmart, Schnuck’s, Hy-Vee and Jewel Osco began this week and will run through Dec. 23. It’s a way to give back for a few hours. It’s also a great way for teens and high school students to earn service hours. The money raised helps keep our services at the Salvation Army going, helping assist in the cost of the food pantry and building expenses for the year.