Sandians stuff turkey donation bins

By Luke Frank

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Birds abound through workforce generosity

volunteers unload turkeys from car trunk
GOBBLER HAULER — Sandia employee Mardelle Morrow, right, has donated turkeys for the Labs’ annual Take a Frozen Turkey to Work Day for the past 17 years. Sandia volunteer Chris Hulliger helped her unload the six birds she donated this year.

In this unknown world of a pandemic sweeping through our communities, there’s no shortage of hungry New Mexico families. But perhaps there’s less of a shortage thanks to the giving spirit of Sandia’s workforce.

The Labs, in partnership with Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union, Roadrunner Food Bank and other local pantries, hosted its annual Take a Frozen Turkey to Work Day on Nov. 17, to collect birds for the less fortunate.

Nine collection sites — two at Sandia and seven at credit union branches — pulled in 250 frozen turkeys and more than $10,000. Donations will be dispersed according to need in communities where drop boxes were located, as well as throughout the state.

Sandia employee Mardelle Morrow dropped off six birds in front of Bldg. 800. “My four sisters and brother pitched in,” she said. “I bought the six biggest turkeys I could find. I feel like I can count my blessings, so I take this opportunity every year to give back.” This is Mardelle’s 17th year dropping off turkeys at Sandia.

Tradition with a twist

volunteers stand next to turkey collection bin
BIN-TASTIC — Sandia’s annual Take a Frozen Turkey to Work Day on Nov. 17 pulled in 250 frozen turkeys and more than $10,000. Sixty-five birds were donated on-site at the Labs, and another 185 turkeys were donated at various Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union locations in Albuquerque and surrounding communities.

This year brought new challenges to the effort — a pandemic that has kept a majority of Sandia employees offsite teleworking, along with recently imposed restrictions on food shopping. Program organizer Katrina Wagner said changes were made this year to create more opportunities for the workforce to donate without unnecessarily coming on-site.

Partnering with Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union offered multiple off-site drop-off locations, including branches in Albuquerque, Los Lunas, Edgewood and Rio Rancho. “We had 185 turkeys dropped off at credit union sites,” Katrina said. “Their ‘all-in’ support really made this year’s drive a success.”

This year’s turkey drive also offered a fundraising component, so Sandians didn’t have to worry about social distancing and waiting in line to purchase birds. “We wanted to make Take a Frozen Turkey to Work Day as safe and simple as possible for our colleagues,” Katrina said. Off-site credit union drop-off locations also enabled Sandia retirees to participate.

“This is a wonderful tradition at Sandia that started years ago with a simple idea that originated in Community Involvement: ‘We have Bring Your Daughter and Son to Work days.’ Why not have a ‘Bring a Turkey to Work Day?’” said Community Relations manager Amy Tapia.

Roadrunner Food Bank has been a partner in this effort for about 20 years. “My best guess is Sandia has donated at least 250 turkeys every year, certainly since I’ve been at Roadrunner,” said communications officer Sonya Warwick. “But it didn’t start with me. Sandia and Roadrunner have enjoyed this relationship for at least 15 years — maybe 20.”

Twenty years of 250 turkeys a year amounts to at least 5,000 birds donated by Sandians and distributed by Roadrunner, predominantly in the Albuquerque metro area, but likely in all 33 New Mexico counties. At 15 pounds apiece, that’s 75,000 pounds of healthy protein going to families in need of sustenance.

“These could be our friends, neighbors or members of our extended families,” Amy said. “New Mexico has really high food insecurity that has been exacerbated by COVID. It’s so important this year, and I couldn’t be prouder to be a Sandian.”