NEWINGTON – A brigade of police, firefighters, elected officials and others were hungry to help the less fortunate ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Stew Leonard’s 40th annual Turkey Brigade took place at the company’s seven stores across the northeast Nov. 21, including Newington’s location on the Berlin Turnpike. A total of 2,500 turkeys were distributed to charity organizations that serve people in need and 300 of those birds were deployed right here in town.
“This serves to continue our relationship with our communities,” Stew Leonard’s Vice President Jamie DiStefano explained. “It’s the time of year when we want to give to people who may not be able to afford a nice Thanksgiving meal.”
Staff packed 10- to 14-lb. turkeys into cardboard boxes and stacked them outside the store well before brigadiers arrived Wednesday morning. The store opens at 8 a.m.
Berlin Police Deputy Chief Chris Ciuci and one of his officers were among those invited to take part.
“Stew Leonard’s is a big supporter of law enforcement,” Ciuci pointed out. “They’re giving back to the community today and we’re just here in a support capacity.”
Newington Volunteer Fire Department showed up in a fire apparatus, bringing close to a dozen volunteers to help with the heavy lifting.
“We got a call asking if we’d like to help out and we’re very happy to do that,” Fire Chief Chris Schroder said. “Since Stew Leonard’s came to Newington they’ve helped the community and the fire department in a lot of ways.”
The company regularly sponsors town, police and fire events, donating food and catering the meal for lots of charity functions in Newington and surrounding towns.
Representatives from 26 different organizations formed a line of vehicles on the parking lot’s east end, as an assembly line began filling trunks with the allotted amount of birds each group was booked to receive.
Newington Human Services staff left with 20 turkeys to supplement their Thanksgiving Food Distribution to low-income families in town. Fox Co. 225 Marine Corps Reserve of Plainville just returned from Afghanistan Nov. 9. Twenty-five turkeys went to the Marines and their families, as a thank-you for their selfless service.
“It’s a tremendous show of support on behalf of Stew Leonard’s,” Marine Corporal Colin Aiello said. “It’s really a nice token of appreciation, especially now that we’re back home.”
PARC of Plainville, the Klingberg Family Centers in New Britain and Cub Scout Pack #322 of Newington also received shipments.
Volunteers had an audience as they worked: a live turkey named “Avocado.”
This young white female bird curiously peered out from a large wire pen sitting at eye level to everyone. She was the star of a classic American tradition Stew’s adopted years ago in the name of Abraham Lincoln. Each November, the store pardons a bird from an uncertain fate on a dinner plate.
“Avocado will live out a happy, healthy life at a turkey sanctuary,” DiStefano said, adding, “I believe it’s Curtis Farms in Meriden, Connecticut.”
Retired Newington Firefighter Wally Brideaux shared a sweet moment with Avocado before she left for the farm.
“My sister used to have turkeys,” he said, pressing his face up close to hers.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.