AUSTIN, Texas - On Wednesday, volunteers with Rodeo Austin and Operation Turkey spent the day smoking and prepping 300 turkeys for Thanksgiving Day.
Operation Turkey is 100% volunteer-led and relies on corporate sponsorships, private donations, merchandise sales and fundraising events. Last year, 75,000 meals were delivered across seven states nationwide.
The nonprofit organization plans on distributing 10,000 meals throughout the City of Austin on Thursday morning.
"I get to eat a great meal every day of the year, so I feel like the least I can do on this day is make sure that anyone who needs a good Thanksgiving meal is getting one," said Operation Turkey’s city leader for Austin, Cindy Crowell.
Richard Bagdonas founded the nonprofit organization out of Austin more than 20 years ago.
"He started by just delivering one meal after his Thanksgiving dinner to a homeless person that needed a meal," said Crowell. "Year after year he added to that until now here we are."
In Austin, one of multiple preparation sites was hosted by Rodeo Austin. Director Brad Boyett has been part of the Operation Turkey endeavor since the beginning, but until a couple of years ago, they were hopping around small restaurants that could host.
As director, he pitched the idea to utilize what they already had onsite at Rodeo Austin.
"It worked out perfectly because we already have our barbecue teams, I’m on the barbecue committee for Rodeo Austin, so I help recruit people to help me come out and cook these meals," said Boyett. "Everybody out there deserves a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day."
On Wednesday, the hundreds of turkeys were smoked before being stored in a refrigerated truck. Thursday morning, volunteers will assemble meals and then deliver them to homes that requested a meal online.
Those interested in volunteering Thursday morning to assemble meals or deliver meals are asked to arrive at Rodeo Austin or Spinners Bar & Grill at 8 a.m.
There are also locations in Cedar Park, San Marcos and Bastrop that are participating. Volunteers can just show up or register online ahead of time here.