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Those in need receive holiday generosity from organizations working together

What good does 100 turkeys, 50 bags of flour and 300 pounds of carrots do for the community? Not much. But when combined with the work and generosity of people from Sodexo, CMU and the Salvation Army, these donated commodities are transformed into a Thanksgiving Holiday meal for thousands of people who might not otherwise enjoy the holiday. Each year the three partners join forces to complete the effort. 

Colorado Mesa University Head Women’s Basketball Coach Taylor Wagner and his team volunteered just as they have in past years. In 2018 the team carved the turkeys, and did so again in 2019. 

“Volunteering is not only good for the community, but the time spent is good for student athletes because these young women build the character traits of future generous leaders in our community,” said Taylor. “Not only that, we have a great time working together off the court for a cause that is more important than a game.” 

The late Paul Burkholder conceptualized the event when he was a student worker at CMU. He continued volunteering for the event as an alumnus and local business leader. While Burkholder passed away a number of years ago, his legacy continues through the ongoing holiday partnership. Over the years CMU and Sodexo have cultivated a unique joint effort with Salvation Army. While Sodexo is a global company, no other program exists exactly like the Thanksgiving effort at CMU. 

Sodexo General Manager Shelly Duran believes Sodexo does a lot around the nation for Thanksgiving, but the project in Grand Junction is unique. 

“The integration of students, faculty, staff and Sodexo employees along with Salvation Army volunteers makes this project one of my favorite charitable stories throughout the year,” said Duran. “Preparing delicious, healthy food for our customers is what we do best, and being able to parlay that expertise into something that makes a better world is part and parcel of what we are all about as a company.” 

On Monday, November 18 the turkeys were delivered to CMU where Sodexo received them and began the thawing process. More than 300 pounds of bread was also delivered and the drying process was initiated in order to make Thanksgiving stuffing. On Monday and Tuesday CMU student, employees and faculty prepared stuffing, gravy and other final preparations for the Salvation Army's Wednesday delivery to those in need. 

CMU President Tim Foster explained that while at times the operation seems overwhelming from the outside, he has observed first-hand that the project is meaningful for those who put in the extra time and effort to pull it off. 

“The undertaking is complex and difficult, but it’s the good kind of stress,” said Foster. “I know that all this energy and hard work from Sodexo and the Salvation Army gives our team at CMU a chance to truly make a difference in the lives of local people. And when we hear the stories from Salvation Army about what takes place during delivery, we know that the project benefits are more than worth the effort.”

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Written by David Ludlam