Annie Barry spent Monday morning going from Columbus office to Columbus office handing out flyers for the city’s annual turkey drive.
The Columbus resident has headed the drive for the last 24 years, asking the public to donate a turkey or two, and organizing volunteers to help prepare Thanksgiving meals for hundreds of elderly and disabled city residents.
After that many years, Barry said it’s become a holiday tradition for her and many of her volunteers.
“It’s important because we know there’s always a need to help,” Barry said. “And believe it or not, when people come and volunteer, they leave with a good feeling that, ‘This is the start of my Thanksgiving. I can go home to my family knowing that I helped somebody else.'”
The drive began Monday and will continue through Nov. 16. The week of Thanksgiving, the volunteers will spend three days cooking the turkeys and side dishes in the kitchen at Stokes Beard Elementary School, preparing entire meals to be taken to a list of needy residents’ homes, with food left over for the volunteers and anyone else who stops by. Last year, Barry said, volunteers took meals to about 1,700 residents.
For the second year in a row, Barry is working with the Salvation Army to collect and prepare the turkeys.
“I know that last year, our people just loved doing it,” said Lt. Christian Smith, who is gearing up for his first holiday season as Salvation Army commander. “That’s why everybody that I’ve spoken to was just on board with doing it again this year.”
Smith emphasized the importance of the Salvation Army using opportunities like the turkey drive to become more involved in the area.
“We are in this community and we want to help this community, and this is probably one of the better ways that we can for Thanksgiving,” he said. “So it’s good for us to be a part of this.”
That goes for volunteers who aren’t necessarily affiliated with the Salvation Army or other charitable organizations, he added.
Barry added that this year will be particularly special for her because it is her first Thanksgiving without her daughter, Ayandria “Yan” Barry, who died in March after a 14-year battle with breast cancer.
“This will be our first Thanksgiving without her,” Annie said. “It’s personal now. It always has been. It’s more so now. Helping someone else, that’s helping me.”
Yan lived in Woodbridge, Virginia where she worked with Wounded Warriors, Annie said, but everyone she worked with knew not to distract her the week of Thanksgiving, because all she would have on her mind was coming home to Columbus to help Annie with Thanksgiving.
“I think that’s where I’m still gaining a lot of my strength,” Annie said. “I can deal with it better knowing that she helped so many people. … That’s what it’s all about. If you can help somebody else, that’s your purpose.”
Turkeys can be donated at the Salvation Army from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-noon on Friday. They also can be left at the Columbus Police Department from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday. To volunteer the week of Thanksgiving, contact the Salvation Army at 327-5137.