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Grapevine Center gives away free frozen birds

Cinda Young, 73, receives a free turkey from volunteers Andrea Watson, left, and Xavier Blews, representing the Grapevine Center in Butler, on Tuesday. Young is retired, on food stamps, and on a fixed income. She told the Butler Eagle, "Money doesn't go as far as it used to." Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle
A different Turkey Trot

A man wearing an inflatable turkey costume paced the streets of Butler on Tuesday evening, passing out smaller turkeys for families needing to gobble this holiday season.

That man was Richard Blews, peer support program manager at the Grapevine Center. The opportunity to spread some holiday spirit is what he considers a dream come true.

“When I was younger, we didn’t have a lot of money. My mom got a free turkey for Thanksgiving one year; I remember that look in her eye,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do a turkey giveaway.”

More than 400 turkeys, ranging from 14 to 24 pounds, were distributed by Blews and a dozen volunteers to Butler city residents.

The frozen birds were given to the center anonymously, Blews said. After setting some aside for its Thanksgiving celebration, the volunteers took to the streets.

“There’s supposed to be a turkey shortage this year, so we’re targeting those in need,” he said. “The individuals have committed more turkeys, so we’ll be getting some throughout the winter.”

Blews said his costume was a last-minute addition to the spirit of the occasion.

“We’ve been cracking bad turkey jokes all week,” he said. “The biggest thing is giving people a smile to make them feel better. If it makes me look silly but it makes someone smile, so be it.”

Volunteers, adorned with pumpkin pie or turkey hats would knock on doors, unload turkeys and talk about the Grapevine Center during their rounds to neighborhoods.

“Talk to people, say hi to them, you know what we’re about,” Blews said to his crew. “You’re going to change a lot of lives tonight.”

Neighbors swarmed the semi truck, packed with birds, and thanked volunteers for their generosity.

Nancy Gumbosky and Tammy Carson each received a small turkey for their planned Thanksgiving meals.

“I have four single neighbors around me who don’t have family. I’ll cook it, and we’ll enjoy it together,” Gumbosky said.

“It’s just me and my son for Thanksgiving,” Carson said. “This way I’ll have extra money to buy other things.”

Cinda Young continuously thanked volunteers as they left the turkey on her porch. She said she plans to feed her children and grandchildren during the holiday season.

“It’s really great because it’ll save us (money). Food stamps, they don’t go as far as they used to,” she said. “It’s appreciated, you don’t know how much it means.”

Blews said the giveaway furthers the mission of the center.

“We’re engaged in the community as far as recovery, this is just something added on to help,” he said. “I get it, because I’ve been there; you give to get. It’s not about the hours you put in, it’s about changing lives.”

Nancy Gumbosky, 67, of Butler, graciously accepts a free turkey from Nathan Walowen, 34, also of Butler, in Butler's South Side neighborhood on Tuesday. Walowen represents the Grapevine Center, a mental health recovery resource in Butler. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle
Rich Blews, 36, program manager at Grapevine Center in Butler, directs volunteers while wearing a turkey suit in Butler's South Side neighborhood on Tuesday. On the porch, Brandon Criss, 25, signs papers for a free turkey gifted to his family from the center and a secret donor. Criss, who has three kids, works as a landscaper and said, "This will definitely help us out," as work is slowing for the season. Cary Shaffer/Butler Eagle
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