Local food pantries are a little fuller thanks to a donation by Hy-Vee of 1,000 frozen turkeys to Churches United of the Quad-City Area.

The donation, made Monday outside St. James Lutheran Church in Bettendorf, helped kick off Hy-Vee's corporate-wide effort to donate 10,000 turkeys in 10 cities over 10 days. Hy-Vee's 12 Quad-City area stores, which include stores in Clinton and Muscatine, donated 1,000 turkeys for Churches United to distribute to the food pantry network it leads. 

"This is a great thing, there is a lot of need out in the community," said Mark Streit, store director of the 53rd Street Hy-Vee, Davenport. "This way the pantries can give them away for Thanksgiving or whenever they see the need."

Food pantry volunteers and coordinators from across the Quad-Cities arrived with vans and pickups to St. James Lutheran, where Hy-Vee store directors emptied a tractor trailer to give the area food pantries their share of the grocery chain's donation. Company officials said the goal is to have delivered 10,000 turkeys to 10 markets in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas and Missouri by week's end.

"This will provide some high-quality, high-protein meals,'' said Streit, who spoke on behalf of all the local stores. 

According to Anne Wachal, acting executive director of Churches United, the ecumenical organization supports a network of 25 food pantries across the Quad-Cities, which are all operated by volunteers.

"Each is run autonomously but also is connected to us," she said. "We provide help with recruiting volunteers, and they work under our guidelines."

Working directly with the pantries, Churches United determined how to split up the 1,000 birds based on how many each pantry serves, the number of days they are open as well as the storage capacity.

"All the pantries did not get equal amounts, but they all know how many families they serve," she said. 

Pam LaRoque was thrilled to be picking up 30 turkeys to take to City Center Ministry in downtown Davenport, where she is the food pantry coordinator and co-pastor with her husband, Dennis LaRoque.

"This is phenomenal," she said. "One of the things our people are always requesting is meat. We're a small pantry, we can't afford to have much meat even when we buy it from River Bend Foodbank."

Dorothy Cotton, food pantry coordinator at Rock Island's Second Baptist Church, shared LaRoque's excitement for the donation.

"My families have been ringing the phone off the hook asking if we were giving away turkeys or Thanksgiving baskets." But the answer had been "no" until the Hy-Vee donation happened, she said. 

Even with 45 turkeys headed to her pantry, she knows the need is still greater.

"Last month, we served 302 families with a total of 810 family members," Cotton said. She planned to hand the turkeys out beginning today "first come, first served." 

Like volunteers at their fellow pantries, St. James Lutheran Food Pantry co-coordinator Caroline Hicks said her crew has been cleaning out enough freezer space to hold 40 turkeys.

"We were so surprised and so glad we could be the delivery site," she said.

"This is huge for us," St. James' pastor Britt Vickstrom said, adding it was the first donation of its kind since the church took over the food pantry from Community of Joy, Bettendorf, two years ago.

Not only will the pantry be offering turkeys but, if necessary, she said "we may be cooking them for some people because some don't have ovens."