A Tooele resident raised money and collected donations to provide over 130 families in Tooele County with Thanksgiving dinner.
James Hunter said he has been purchasing Thanksgiving meals for two families with his own money for around 10 years.
Last year, before Thanksgiving, Hunter posted on Facebook that he wanted to provide two families with Thanksgiving dinner.
“When I woke up the next morning, I had like twelve requests for those two meals,” he said. “I didn’t know how to pick which two families the meals would go to. So, I reached out to my family to see if they wanted to help me and I just got a bunch of donations. I ended up doing 40 families last year.”
This year, Hunter decided he wanted to provide 50 families with Thanksgiving meals.
“This October I posted on Facebook that I wanted to do a food drive and I got lots of donations,” he said. “Our goal was 50 but we received 75 families who needed a meal. So, I posted seeing if I could beat 75. Then, I got to 100 and it just kept going up. I just kept getting more and more. I just kept adding more families.”
Over 80 members of the community and Hunter’s family and friends donated Thanksgiving meal items and cash through Venmo or by dropping off cash at Hunter’s house.
“We raised a little over $3,000 plus turkeys,” said Hunter. “We had donations from friends and family from Washington D.C, Montana, and Saint George. I had donations from everywhere!”
Individuals were able to nominate a family in the county in need of a meal or themselves.
“We had people who were like, ‘I know an elderly couple who is struggling, or my neighbor is having problems, can you go surprise them with a meal?’” Hunter said. “A lot of them didn’t even know it was coming.”
Lucky Grocery Store helped Hunter by preordering the meal items and Walmart saved boxes for the meals and allowed Hunter to use one of their fridges to store the turkeys.
He also created a Facebook group called “Thanksgiving food drive with James Hunter,” where individuals could chat about donations, nominate families, and ask to volunteer when the time came to pack up and deliver the meals.
25 individuals, including members of Hunter’s family helped him pack up the meals.
The Elks Lodge in Tooele allowed Hunter and his volunteers to use their building to pack up the meals.
When the meals were ready, the volunteers helped Hunter deliver them on Saturday morning.
“We did kind of a knock and drop thing,” he said. “We would ring their doorbells and run, so it was a contactless delivery.
On Sunday Hunter delivered five more extra turkeys to families.
Hunter said the reaction from the community has been amazing.
“Even people who didn’t want meals would comment on Facebook and say, ‘Hey, this is a great thing you’re doing,’” Hunter said. “The people we have dropped meals off to are messaging constantly saying, ‘When I saw the food, I started to cry.’ It’s been amazing. We knew we were going to have a lot of families needing meals, because of COVID but it was more than we thought. We were really surprised by how many families needed help and how many people stepped up to help them. It was amazing to see the reaction.”
Next year Hunter plans on hosting another food drive and possibly finding more families to donate to.
“We want to try to help as many as we can,” Hunter said. “This year we didn’t turn away a single family. We will do as many meals as people request next year. There’s no way I would have been able to do this on my own. I want to say thank you to all of my family and friends and everyone who donated and came and volunteered.”