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Turkey for everyone

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By Katy Korkos

 

Tuesday was “Take a Turkey to Work” Day at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and laboratory employees responded with enthusiasm, bringing turkeys and everything else for needy families’ Thanksgiving dinners. Despite the fact that the charitable event took place one day after the announcement of retirement offers at the lab, support for the program was strong.“The employees really care,” said Tim Martinez of the lab’s Community Programs office.“I’m sure that everyone who came to work today was concerned about the layoffs, but they just wanted to help out people in need,” Martinez said. He said that the programs are flourishing, and “with everybody working together, we are able to meet our goals.”Tuesday’s “Take a Turkey to Work” day was a great success, with close to 30 volunteers packing boxes, loading them on to the trucks and overseeing the distribution of the boxes to families in need in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.“We picked up a couple of new partners this time,” Martinez said. “We went out to the contractors and asked for help, and Shaw Environmental was there with trucks.” He added that KSL and PTLA were strong supporters, along with many other groups.The holiday boxes are distributed through the San Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen in Española, which the laboratory employees have adopted as a pet project. The soup kitchen is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides hot lunches Monday through Friday for those in need, along with food baskets to anyone referred by a church or state agency.Martinez said that when the lab first became acquainted with the soup kitchen, it was only open three days per week, and it was able to accommodate fewer than 50 people per day. The lab’s community programs office sponsored a fundraiser called the Chile Bowl last April, which raised about $8,000, and with the help of volunteers and donations from businesses like Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and area banks, were able to build additional storage space for the soup kitchen. “Now they can serve up to 80 per day, and they’re open five days a week,” Martinez said. “And we’re hoping to help them expand their serving area.” Money raised at the fundraiser was augmented by a grant of $14,000, which went to build a walk-in freezer and add to a pantry area.The community programs office has already scheduled another Chili Bowl fundraiser for the day before the Super Bowl in January. The event includes chile tastings prepared by local restaurants, and attendees can vote for their favorite chile. “Take a Turkey to Work” day is just one of many ongoing community giving projects supported by the laboratory and its contractors. “We built the virtual food bank at the laboratory, we have LANL Laces, to provide shoes for kids, we have Adopt-a-Family, with up to 180 families we support for the holidays,” Martinez said.He added that lab employees also support people in need by filling wishes, in a program where individuals request specific gifts which the program provides. “We have about 1,000 gift tags that are referred to us by state and local agencies like Adult Protective Services and Los Alamos Self Help,” Martinez said, adding that the gift tag program had a long history, so that groups are now asking well in advance to get gift tags before they’re all spoken for.“It’s the laboratory employees who ask us to do these programs; they’re the ones who make a difference.”