BILLINGS — Billings residents donated close to 12 pallet boxes of turkeys and other food along with scores of toys in Q2's annual Turkey Tuesday event.
For 12 hours on Tuesday, volunteers with the Billings Food Bank and Marines with Toys for Tots collected donations to their respective organizations from the Q2 studio parking lot.
Compared to previous years, the event was blessed with good weather and an even better community that turned out in force to support the local charities, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a nice day, but it’s also cool toward the end of November in Montana. So, this is really a nice day and the turnout has been phenomenal. The response from the community, you can’t even describe it," said Sheryle Shandy, Billings Food Bank CEO.
Shandy said the community turned out in force and made this year's Turkey Tuesday on par with events seen in previous years. Total numbers on the amount of food donated won't be available until Wednesday after food bank staff make the final count.
"The people opened their hearts today, I’ll tell ya. Maybe because this is more of a good news story than a political story," Shandy said with a laugh.
The turkeys aren't just given out over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whatever turkeys go undistributed over the holiday season will be given out to people throughout the year, Shandy said.
“We kind of relate turkeys to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but actually it’s a great, inexpensive protein for all year long. Once we’re done with Christmas, we give away turkeys through Easter," Shandy said.
This year's Turkey Tuesday was held in a drive-up style. People didn't have to leave their cars to drop off a donation. Sabrina Wolf was one of the volunteers who helped grab donations from peoples vehicles. She is a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint missionary, originally from Olympia, Washington.
“I think the people out here in Montana are great. They are super generous and have a lot of love in their hearts. To be able to accept a donation on behalf of someone else feels really, really good," Wolf said.
People could also donate Christmas gifts to the Toys for Tots program ran by the US Marine Corps. Sgt. Joshua Hancock is the coordinator for the Billings-area effort this year.
“It means a lot to me because I love Christmas. It’s my favorite. Being able to spread joy and hope for less fortunate families is one of the things that I love to do," Hancock said.
The Toys for Tots program has been around for 74 years. Hancock said it's usually taken up by active duty Marines who are on inspector instructor duty.
"We’re essentially the active component of a reserve unit. We take care of Toys for Tots collectively, within our unit while also trying to keep up with our regular positions," Hancock said.
If you're still looking to donate to Toys for Tots, boxes will be set up at various businesses around town to collect donations until Dec. 12. Then, toys will be distributed from one of the buildings at MetraPark from Dec. 15 - 19. To sign up to receive toys, fill out an application that can be accessed by clicking here.
In particular, the Billings-area Toys for Tots is looking for gifts for teenagers. Hancock mentioned makeup, Bluetooth speakers and headphones being good gifts for teens.
“Usually one of our biggest items is getting toys for teens, because everyone knows that teens are hard to shop for. When you think Toys for Tots, you don’t usually think of teenagers, but they are also included in our age ranges. Everyone deserves a little bit of Christmas," Hancock said.