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The challenge has gone out to corporations, businesses and anyone with a heart to donate enough turkeys so that needy area families can enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.

"The turkeys are finally beginning to fly into the warehouse," Clem Eckert, executive director of the Food Bank of Western New York, said this weekend. "But we need another 6,000 turkeys."

The Food Bank is the lifeline for the food pantries that help 29,000 needy families keep food on their tables.

Many, but not all, have been scrimping and saving for the Thanksgiving feast.

"At least half of them will be depending on the pantries for a turkey on the table," Eckert said.

The turkeys have been flying in as people have begin responding to Eckert's plea made last Sunday in The Buffalo News.

"Just takes time, I guess." Eckert observed. "But Friday, good things began happening, like almost 1,500 turkeys being donated."

It all began when Judy Tucker, chairwoman of last summer's Taste of Buffalo, and other volunteer workers in the big event arrived at the Food Bank with 372 turkeys, Eckert said. Right behind them were another 372 turkeys donated by Delaware North Cos.

Ms. Tucker, legal administrator and paralegal at Delaware North, said she called William Bissett, the company's vice president of business development. She told him where she was going and asked him if the company would be interested in matching the Taste of Buffalo's gift.

"Without a moment of hesitation, he said, 'Do it,' " Ms. Tucker reported.

A short time later, ADF Construction of Amherst unloaded 624 turkeys, according to Eckert.

"And the next thing we knew, Christopher DeSanto of Santo Tours shows up with a $4,000 check," he added.

But a smaller donation "really grabbed at our hearts," Eckert said.

"Michael DeNisco showed up with a box of turkeys and just said, 'These are from Judge Mattina (Erie County Surrogate Judge Joseph S. Mattina) and his staff. We heard you needed turkeys.' "

Donations have poured into some of the soup kitchens, and they are sharing with the kitchens that have not been so lucky.

"The donations have been unbelievable," said Sister Johnice, director of the Response to Love soup kitchen. "But we know of nearby pantries that are hurting, so we are sending some of our donations to them."

It was the same at the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen at 875 Elmwood Ave.

"We are packing boxes for the pantries in the area, especially Sister Joan over in the Perry Projects," said Anne Harrington, coordinator of the Loaves and Fishes kitchen.

Darren Strickland, director of Friends of the Night People soup kitchen at Hudson and Wadsworth streets, drove out to the West Valley Nuclear Service Co. to pick up 28 turkeys purchased with donations from employees.

"We are getting there," Strickland said. "But like all the kitchens, we depend on donations received during this holiday seasons to get us through most of the year.

"Unfortunately, when the holidays end, the donations drop off, but we still have to feed hungry people -- and more than half of them are children -- 365 days a year."

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