When Howard Brown first decided to raise money to provide turkey dinners for hungry families at his church, the Christ Unity Church on the South Side, he started small, with a goal to raise about $500 to buy 40 turkeys.
With the help of his fellow students at Roosevelt University, Brown has raised nearly $1,900, almost four times his original goal, in only two weeks. Through a program he called Swipe to Wipe Out Hunger, students were able to donate money by swiping their meal plan cards in their cafeteria to donate their flex dollars, money that would normally be lost if it isn't used up by the end of the school year. Brown and the students raised $600 on the first day. By the end of the drive they had enough money to buy 125 14-pound turkeys and trimmings.
"If we had raised only enough to buy one turkey, it would have still been just as great for me, because somebody understood the purpose of what it means to give from the heart," Brown said. "I'm over the moon because we raised what we raised, but it means next year can only be bigger and better."
Brown, who is a head resident assistant at the university's new Wabash Building and a 41-year-old sophomore majoring in elementary education who recently returned to college, encouraged the students living in his dorm to give money by drawing turkeys on housing white boards that tracked donations. The food was delivered to 230 families in the Washington Park community Saturday. Brown couldn't make it to the food pick-up day because he had a Saturday class he couldn't miss.
The community at Brown's church gave him a standing ovation when the pastor announced it during mass.
And the turkey drive wasn't the end of Brown's Thanksgiving spirit, either.
On Thursday, Brown will provide a full Thanksgiving meal-- turkey, ham, dressing, greens and mac and cheese--for resident assistants and students living in the Wabash Building who can't make it home for the holiday.
Brown spent the Wednesday before Thanksgiving preparing and didn't seem at all stressed about the process.
"Well, my turkey's marinating," Brown said. "My cheesecake is already made. My process of cooking is so effortless-- cooking is therapy for me. I am a preparer. I kind of get to sit back later and let everything go in the oven, and then tomorrow, when they're reading to eat it, they can pop it in the oven if I'm not here."
Erin Vogel is a RedEye special contributor.
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