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Two Moretown students brighten holiday for families in need

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November 22, 2006 

By Erin Post

Clutching a shoebox dolled up as a polka-dotted turkey, with a paper towel tube neck and fluorescent, construction paper tail feathers, two students from Moretown Elementary School made Thanksgiving a little more joyful for dozens of local families this weekend.

On Saturday, November 18, eight year old Maggie Nowlan, and nine year old Maddie Baughman, handed their shoebox bird, overflowing with donated Turkey Points, to the Waitsfield Shaw's store manager Richard Daley, to redeem for turkeys and other holiday fixings for local residents in need.

The idea was simple, said the two students.

They asked people to donate the Turkey Points they earn by shopping at Shaw's-every $25 spent earns one Turkey Point-to benefit families who may need some help over the holidays this year.

Twenty Turkey Points may be redeemed for a free turkey, and the two girls envisioned how many families could enjoy a big dinner if the community came together and pooled their points.

So, at the urging of their church, they placed boxes at several locations in the community, including at their school, and at the local Shaw's.

"Then we just started collecting," Baughman said.

Area residents bundled their turkey points in envelopes provided by the store, and dropped them in the boxes.

The girls said they weren't sure what to expect.

"I thought we were only going to get 20 turkeys," Nowlan said.

But the final count tallied a few more birds than that: They ended up with 1,420 points, enough for 71 turkeys and fixings.

On Tuesday, November 21, the turkeys and other foods earned through redeeming the Turkey Points were packed into boxes along with other donated items at the Waitsfield United Church of Christ, to be distributed to local residents in need.

Nancy Pignatello said Saturday over 50 families had signed up for baskets, with that number expected to grow in the few days leading up to Thanksgiving.

Residents from across the Mad River Valley are served by the project, she said, which is organized by the Mad River Valley Interfaith Council. The Mad River Valley Food Shelf also provides food for the effort.

Susan McKnight, pastor at the Warren Church, said the project involves "a lot of community participation and support," with local businesses donating freezer space to store turkeys, and volunteers donating food and their time.

After a day filled with packing, organizers said the boxes are usually picked up or delivered the Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, with enough time left to thaw the turkeys, and get in the kitchen and cook.

Nowlan and Baughman said Saturday their project will hopefully share with everyone the joy they feel when it comes to eating all that good food Thanksgiving Day.

"Each one of those turkeys is a Thanksgiving dinner," Baughman pointed out. Nowlan, standing by her friend's side, grinned as she explained the pair's motivation.

"We like Thanksgiving and we want others to have it too," she said.

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