AUSTIN, Texas — Operation Turkey feeds and clothes people experiencing homelessness and those experiencing financial hardship in Austin and over 20 other cities nationwide on Thanksgiving Day.
It started in Austin almost 20 years ago and has expanded to seven states and 29 cities.
This year, the goal is to serve 50,000 turkeys in total.
Serving that many people takes a lot of preparation, so on Wednesday, hundreds of volunteers started preparations at the Turkey Tailgate. The tailgate is a daylong event involving seasoning and smoking hundreds of turkeys and sorting out donations before Thanksgiving.
Arash Saberi owns Spinners Bar and Grill in North Austin. On Wednesday, volunteers gathered with several smokers to prep and smoke 300 turkeys, starting as early as 6 a.m.
"I like to do things for the community," Saberi said. "I've been here in this location for 10 years, and the community has always supported me, supported me through COVID, through everything, and I like to do what I can."
On Thanksgiving, the meals are then prepared and passed out at four different Austin locations, as well as in Round Rock and Cedar Park. According to the organization's website, the group is 100% volunteer-run and has more than 35,000 volunteers that work to ensure those in need receive a warm Thanksgiving meal.
Saberi said this is his fifth year volunteering with Operation Turkey.
"Thanksgiving means cherishing and being thankful for the things you have, and sharing with others," Saberi said.
This year, Operation Turkey is hosting events in four different states with an additional four states planning to participate in 2023.