By Christopher James, Public Service and Outreach

Turkeypalooza is one of the biggest events of the year for the University of Georgia’s Campus Kitchen and a great way for the UGA community to give back during the holiday season.

“It engages all the (Public Service and Outreach) units and many other student organizations on campus,” said Shannon Wilder, director of the Office of Service-Learning, which reports jointly to the vice presidents for instruction and for public service and outreach. “Because it is a partnership with Athens Community Council on Aging, it’s a great example of the way that community-university partnerships can address important needs.”

Students with Campus Kitchen, which is a program within the Office of Service-Learning, will provide almost 1,400 Thanksgiving meals to seniors and their families this week. The dinners include cornbread stuffing, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, potatoes and, of course, turkey.

Meal boxes were packaged on Friday as part of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach first Day of Service. Over the weekend, students and community volunteers prepared some meals to be delivered to seniors.

Twenty-eight organizations contributed cans or food items, including all eight PSO units, the Terry College of Business and UGArden. UGA Food Services participated for the first time, placing collection bins in each campus dining hall and food court. Local businesses also contributed and helped with deliveries. Volunteers included 20 Public Service and Outreach Student Scholars, 28 members of Athens Church and about a dozen UGA students.

Gracelyn Jones, a PSO student scholar and third-year genetics major at UGA, was among the students helping out on Friday at the Council on Aging. Canvas bags of potatoes, cans of green beans piled high and box after box of stuffing mix were among the ingredients fired into boxes in assembly line fashion.

“Knowing that what you’re doing is really going to make a difference in the lives of people in the community, that’s definitely what motivates me with everything I’m doing with Turkeypalooza,” Jones said. “It’s very chaotic but it’s super fun. It’s very high energy.”

Turkeypalooza is the highlight of the year, said Campus Kitchen coordinator Brad Turner.

“Our mission is to repurpose food that would be thrown away,” Turner said “Turkeypalooza is one time of the year where we kind of pull out the stops and say, ‘You know what, we’re going to give something special to our clients.’ I think the community really loves getting involved and donating whatever they have.”