Cornucopia for the annual Turkey Basket project

Every year, the Mad River Valley Interfaith Council collects donations of food and funds to provide free Thanksgiving “turkey baskets” to local families and individuals in need. Last year, the council provided baskets to 80 families, comprising roughly 300 people. Organizer Judy Beningson said she expects they may have even greater need this year, as the Mad River Valley Community Pantry has seen an uptick in traffic in recent months, she speculated due to rising food costs.


Beningson said the turkey basket program, which has been going on for somewhere between 20-25 years, is a community effort made possible by local businesses and individuals. Rick Rayfield of Tempest Book Shop bakes bread for the baskets; Shaw’s bakes roughly 100 pies; Mehuron’s provides frozen turkeys; and many other businesses donate funds or other products. Approximately 20 people volunteer each year to assemble the baskets and a team of five helps coordinate. “We loop in everybody we can,” Beningson said.

Anyone in The Valley who is in need of a basket this Thanksgiving can sign up in the following ways: via an online Google form:; at Valley schools (see the school nurse for information); a sign-up form at the Mad River Valley Community Pantry; by speaking to the pastors at local churches; or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at the Mad River Valley Community Fund. Baskets are free to anyone in The Valley. “All we need is a name, address, and the number of people in the household to provide enough food,” Beningson said.

Baskets can be picked up Tuesday, November 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Waitsfield United Church on Main Street or can be delivered directly to homes.

Those interested in donating food can drop off their donations at The Valley Reporter office at 173 Slow Road in Waitsfield or at local churches. The Interfaith Council is specifically looking for donations of the following: Apple sauce (20-25 ounces); biscuit mix (box); brownie mix (box); canned fruit (13-15-ounce can); canned vegetables (14-16-ounce cans: corn, peas or green beans); crackers (8-12-ounce box); cranberry sauce (14-ounce can); gravy (1 can/bottle); peanut butter (16-20-ounce jar); stuffing (1 box/bag); and tuna (9-12-ounce can).

Volunteers will add fresh ingredients such as bread, potatoes, carrots, onions and pies, as well as 12-15-pound frozen turkeys to the baskets.

Those who prefer to donate funds can mail a check to the Mad River Interfaith Council at P.O. Box 342, Waitsfield, VT 05673 or donate via PayPal to Mad River Valley Interfaith Council. The funds are used to purchase food and any leftover funds will be donated to the Mad River Valley Community Pantry.