Over the last 18 years Operation Turkey has remained a 100% volunteer organization without a single paid employee. We are more than 20,000 volunteers strong working together to ensure everyone receives a warm meal on Thanksgiving Day.
No matter where you are Thanksgiving Day, you can participate with Operation Turkey. Once you do it, please tell others about it, and together we will eradicate hunger one meal, one day, at a time.
Our history dates back to the year 2000 when Richard Bagdonas had just finished his own Thanksgiving dinner with friends. Full from his delicious meal, he did what many of us do, plate the leftovers. While driving home, he decided that the extra food could benefit someone more…
“That Thanksgiving, I drove downtown to 6th Street on my way home and handed out a plate of food to a homeless man in a wheelchair. He couldn’t thank me because he was mentally challenged, but the homeless guy next to him said ‘thank you’ and helped feed the meal to the man. Afterwards I sat in my car and cried, and I knew I wanted to do something about it.”
In 2010, Richard made the decision to hand over the organization to new leader, Brian Tolbert. Brian immediately realized the potential of the grass roots organization and wanted to share it with other cities. In 2011, Operation Turkey opened its first new location in San Marcos, Texas and each year more cities and states joined. In 2016, the organization delivered more than 40,000 meals in 13 cities and 6 states with more than 20,000 volunteers.
As you can see, it all started with one meal and one man. As the timeline shows below, our facts and figures are proof that this organization has no interest in slowing down progress.
Operation Turkey Timeline
- Operation Turkey’s goal was 50,000 meals.
- Operation Turkey set a goal of 40,000 meals and successfully delivered.
- To accomplish this goal, we held several fundraisers: 3rd Annual Turkey Hugs, 3rd Annual Alaskan Seafood Dinner at Swift’s Attic, 1st Annual Wild Game Dinner at Chicon, and even more fundraisers our friends and family in the community initiated.
- Toyota donated vehicles to the leaders of Operation Turkey Dallas to help deliver meals in their community.
- Operation Turkey opened new locations in Albuquerque, NM; Lumberton, NC; and Round Rock, TX.
- We continued operations in Austin,TX; Colorado Springs, CO; Columbus, GA; Dallas, TX; Fayetteville, NC; Houston, TX; Lubbock, TX; San Antonio, TX; San Marcos, TX; Virginia Beach, VA; and 32 unofficial locations throughout the country.
- Operation Turkey set a goal of 30,000 meals and successfully delivered.
- To accomplish this goal we held several fundraisers: 5th Annual US. Foods Charity Golf Tournament, 2nd Annual Turkey Hugs, 2nd Annual Alaskan Seafood Dinner at Swift’s Attic, and even more fundraisers our friends and family in the community initiated.
- Toyota donated vehicles to the leaders of Operation Turkey Dallas and Houston to help deliver meals in their community.
- Operation Turkey opened new locations in Columbus, GA; Fayetteville, NC; Lubbock, TX; San Antonio, TX; and Virginia Beach, VA.
- We continued operations in Austin, TX; Colorado Springs, CO; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; San Marcos, TX; and 30 unofficial locations throughout the country.
- Operation Turkey set a goal of 17,000 meals.
- To accomplish this goal we held our 4th Annual US Foods Golf Tournament in Austin, TX; 1st Annual Turkey Hugs; 1st Annual Alaskan Seafood fundraising dinner at Swift’s Attic; and a host of other fundraisers initiated by friends and family in the community.
- We successfully opened our first out of state location in Colorado Springs, CO.
- We continued operations in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Marcos, TX, and 30 unofficial locations throughout the country.
- Operation Turkey’s goal rose to 12,000 meals.
- The 3rd Annual Golf Tournament in Austin, TX was an even bigger success this year.
- US. Foods donated more than 300 turkeys this year and provided outstanding service getting us up and running in new and existing cities.
- Houston, Texas became the newest official Operation Turkey location. We had another successful year in Austin, Dallas, and San Marcos, TX.
- 30 unofficial cities continued their mission to feed people within their communities.
- Operation Turkey set a goal of 7,000 meals.
- We held our 2nd Annual Golf Tournament in Austin, TX and San Marcos held its first. US. Foods became the official sponsor of both events.
- P.F. Chang’s became an official sponsor of Operation Turkey allowing us to operate in any city we have operations.
- The Atlantic Housing Foundation joined Operation Turkey in Dallas, Texas and successfully delivered 1,000 meals their first year.
- Austin, TX served 5,000 meals to those in need and San Marcos, TX doubled their number of meals to 1,000.
- 30 unofficial cities continued their mission to feed people within their communities.
- Operation Turkey continued under new leadership of Brian Tolbert and a Board of Advisors was created.
- San Marcos, Texas became the first official Operation Turkey location successfully launched under new leadership.
- We held our First Charity Golf Tournament which helped raise funds for meals.
- More than 2,300 volunteers came out Thanksgiving Day to distribute over 4,200 meals and toiletries in Austin and 500 in San Marcos.
- We had volunteers in more than 30 unofficial cities feeding people within their community.
- Operation Turkey set a goal to feed 4,000 people in Austin, TX.
- Richard Bagdonas, founder of Operation Turkey, announced the new Executive Director, Brian Tolbert.
- The 4th Annual Austin Yam Jam was held at Threadgill’s and we auctioned guitars signed by artist like Willie Nelson to help raise funds.
- More than 2,000 volunteers come out on Thanksgiving Day to provide 4,000 meals to the homeless in Austin, TX.
- We added www.feed4000.com to our domain name list because we are dedicated to feeding 4,000 people in Austin each year.
- Folks in more than 30 unofficial cities were feeding people in their own communities.
- Our goal this year was to feed 4,000 people in Austin, TX.
- The 3rd Annual Austin Yam Jam was a tribute to the late, great Stephen Bruton. Alejandro Escovedo, Bob Schneider, David Grissom, Malford Milligan, Vitera, Boca Abajo, Kalua played the event and helped raise enough funds to cover the cost of food.
- We had over 1,700 volunteers show up Thanksgiving morning (spread between the two locations in Austin).
- Groups in 29 other cities operated as Operation Turkey delivering meals.
- Our goal for the number of meals served in Austin, TX rose to 3,500.
- The 2nd Annual Austin Yam Jam included artists porterdavis, Guy Forsyth, Carolyn Wonderland, and Mingo Fishtrap.
- Horizon Bank donated 100 smoked turkeys in 2008 and we created the Turkey Tailgate to celebrate the donation. Employer Solutions Group, Austin Office Space, Dizzy Tee Designs, and J. Walton Media sponsored the event. Savvy Vodka, Red Bull, and Miller Litegraciously provided free drinks.
- More than 3,000 pounds of clothing was donated and enough funds were raised to buy food for all meals.
- Over 1,700 people registered as volunteers for Thanksgiving Day (spread between the two locations in Austin).
- 25 unofficial cities operated their own Operation Turkey.
- Our goal was to feed between 2,000 – 3,000 people in Austin.
- To accomplish this goal we put on our first ever music event, Keep Austin Fed Music Fest, hosted by Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill.
- The second event, Austin Yam Jam, was hosted by Threadgills World Headquarters and included artist Ruthie Foster, porterdavis, Bruce Robison, Carolyn Wonderland, Jeff Plankenhorn, and Patrice Pike.
- Washington Mutual (WAMU) donated 250 backpacks and water bottles for kids, Fusion Learning Systems filled those backpacks with toiletries.
- Enough money was raised to buy food for 3,000 people.
- 600 volunteers showed up Thanksgiving Day and hand delivered meals to those in need.
- We had groups in 20 other unofficial cities delivering meals. (Unofficial cities typically deliver less than 500 meals).
- More than 500 people benefited from Operation Turkey this year.
- Thanks to the fine folks at KUT, our first volunteer drive brought in over 250 requests to volunteer.
- Several churches and companies join Operation Turkey in 2006: Fusion Learning Systems, Remote Operations, The Accounting Group, Young Hispanic Professional Austin Association and the Parmer Oaks Dental Care.
- Thanks to the support of friends and family, we handed out 75 dinners and clothed over 105 people.
- Keeping up with tradition, more friends joined and we doubled the number of meals, handing out 16 dinners and an equal number of coats and blankets.
- More friends joined this year and we handed out 8 dinners and all of the coats and blankets we could find.
- We started calling the event Operation Turkey.
- This year some friends joined Richard Bagdonas to hand out 4 dinners, 2 coats, and a blanket.
- Richard Bagdonas doubled the number of meals from the previous year and handed out 2 meals.
- Richard Bagdonas handed out one meal in Austin, TX to a homeless gentleman in a wheelchair on 6th Street.