With the arrival of the holiday season, some families of service members in Puyallup might find themselves in need of a little help.
Last week, that help arrived in the form of a bus and a truck full of Thanksgiving turkeys.
The bus, which was donated for use by Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, was full of members of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), who had raised enough money to buy around 750 turkeys to distribute to families in need. Combining efforts made by the Air Force Association and the National Guard, which raised 450 turkeys, a total of 1,200 turkeys were purchased.
“(Operation Turkey Drop) is a big fundraiser,” said Amy Tiemeyer, president of AUSA’s Captain Meriwether Lewis (CML) chapter. “We fill up a flatbed truck (and) drive around and deliver turkey. Each unit gets a certain allocation.”
For eight years, the Captain Meriwether Lewis AUSA chapter has been supporting the families of service members through their Turkey Drop. Some of the soldiers are part of the 593rd Sustainment Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which encompasses around 5,000 to 6,000 soldiers. Turkeys were provided to junior enlisted families.
All of the nine AUSA subchapters help raise money, including the Puyallup-Sumner subchapter. The CML chapter is the only AUSA chapter in the nation with subchapters.
“This chapter has been great in getting behind who their leader is and putting their heart and soul into programs that matter,” Tiemeyer said. “They say many hands make light work.”
More than 40 groups gave support to the fundraiser, from subchapters to businesses. The Puyallup Tribe and Sumner’s Old Cannery Furniture Warehouse were among the contributors.
“It’s had a lot of community support,” Tiemeyer said.
I just know that we were put on the list and I just remember being very humbled because I was kind of surprised. Truthfully, I never thought we were one of the families that needed help, but at the time I wasn’t working and (my husband) was a young soldier. It was a nice surprise.
JoAnn Wherry, secretary with AUSA
This year, the AUSA chapter raised around $20,000, which allows for more turkey purchases than previous years — but that doesn’t mean that every family gets one.
“Even though it seems like we have less soldiers, we actually have bigger needs,” Tiemeyer said, adding that two years ago some military funding that helped families ended. “(Families) are having to pay more for child care. We’re still not meeting the needs. Next year if we got more (turkeys) in, that would be great.”
For Tiemeyer, giving out turkeys for families is important, because having a parent or relative away for the holidays can make money tight.
“If you’re a single income family (the Turkey Drop) could be incredibly impactful,” she said.
A turkey certainly helped JoAnn Wherry and her family. Wherry’s husband was on active duty for 21 years and retired five years ago. She remembered finding out she was a recipient of the Turkey Drop.
“I just know that we were put on the list and I just remember being very humbled because I was kind of surprised,” said Wherry, who now works as a secretary for AUSA. “Truthfully, I never thought we were one of the families that needed help, but at the time I wasn’t working and (my husband) was a young soldier. It was a nice surprise.”
Similar to the Turkey Drop, the AUSA CML chapter will also host an Operation Ham Grenade fundraiser and will be dropping off hams on Dec. 16.
“We had 750 (turkeys) on the (AUSA) side this year and I’m hoping to have close to that in hams,” Tiemeyer said.