Nevada National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Aaron Southerland said 52 soldiers at the Stead base pitched in $384 over time to purchase the frozen birds from a local supermarket. They packaged them onto their mini copter and flew them about five minutes to the location at a kick-off to today’s food drive taking place at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.
The LUH-72-A Lakota, the smallest aircraft on base, was chosen for this year’s turkey drop for practice purposes and because it created less rotor wash for onlookers. Last year, a Chinook was used for the holiday delivery.
The helicopter will be used in the future for medical purposes and for hoisting smaller objects quickly, Southerland said.
“It’s a good thing to have in the state,” he said.
The unit has participated in the Turkey Drop event since 1999 to expand awareness, according to The Salvation Army. The event kicks off today’s 12-hour turkey drop-off at the Atlantis in its west parking lot.
Anyone who wants to participate can drop a frozen turkey between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The goal is to collect 3,160 more turkeys. The event is sponsored by News Talk 780 KOH and will be broadcast live by the station.
Volunteers with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and the Reno Police Senior Auxiliary Effort (S.A.V.E.) will be on hand to unload the turkeys and other food donations. People can drive by and drop off turkeys and nonperishable food items or donate cash to the kettle. Every $15 buys a medium-size turkey.
Donations also are accepted at The Salvation Army’s Christmas Center seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 7175 S. Virginia St.
Salvation Army Captain Michael Johnson in Reno said he hopes to have enough food for at least 2,000 families for Christmas, when all is done.
“We’re thankful for the National Guard,” he said. “It’s a neat way to kick everything off.”
Inside The Salvation Army’s facility on Sutro Street nearly 100 people waited for food, clothing and help on Tuesday.
“We do a regular social service where we give bread and food boxes, clothing, and other items,” Johnson said. “We used to do 34 to 50 boxes a week. Now we do at least 150 to 175 boxes a week,” he said.
Sometimes when his helpers hand out the boxes of food, people can’t help but start to cry, he said.
“People are just in tears,” he said. “To say we can help, it’s just a tremendous blessing. For us to say we can put a meal on their table for their family, and clothing vouchers for the store here is good.”
For phone donations, call 688-4555, or visit www.salvationarmy.org.