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Social Responsibility

ERIE Couple Continues the “Turkey Man” Tradition, Feeding Thousands Every Thanksgiving

What’s Thanksgiving without turkey, stuffing, and all the fixings? Without the signature meal, it just doesn’t seem complete.

But for those struggling with hunger, Thanksgiving comes and goes just like any other day because they don’t have the means to provide such an elaborate meal.

According to FeedingAmerica.org, one in eight Pennsylvania residents struggle with hunger. Several Erie Insurance employees, working at our home office in Erie, Pennsylvania, are working hard to make a difference through the Rick Hinman Thanksgiving Dinner Drive.

Meet the "Turkey Man"

The Thanksgiving Dinner Drive is named after Erie Insurance retiree Rick Hinman, whose efforts earned him the nickname “Turkey Man.” In 1986, Rick and his wife donated a single turkey to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Erie. That one act of kindness evolved into a grassroots campaign involving family, friends, co-workers and other organizations. Today, the Thanksgiving Dinner Drive helps feed thousands in Erie County each Thanksgiving by delivering holiday meals to nonprofits around the area.

Each package includes a complete traditional holiday meal, including the bird and all the trimmings – even dessert!

Since Hinman’s retirement in 2015, ERIE employees Charles and Penny Spacht, have taken the reigns as program coordinators to continue its success. Together, they organize fundraisers and handle all the logistics to purchase, pack and deliver the food to get those meals out in time for the holiday.

This year, the Dinner Drive is helping 3,000 families enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.

“It’s not a goal, it’s a promise,” said Charles Spacht, an IT manager at ERIE. “This means regardless of how much money we raise, we are committed to providing these dinners.”

How it works

It’s no small feat to get that many turkey dinners out the door. To start, Penny and Charles work with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania to identify area agencies who are in need of donations.

“We are so grateful to the Turkey Man contributors and the level of commitment they continue to show towards feeding the hungry in our area,” said Karen Seggi, executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank. “The Turkey Man project ensures that our neighbors who are facing difficult times can still join together around a dinner table during the holiday season.”

 The Elmwood Avenue Food Pantry helps at least 50 families a month in the Erie area. They have been receiving holiday gift boxes from the Thanksgiving Dinner Drive for the past six years.

“I know for a fact that many of these families would not have a holiday meal on the table if it wasn’t for Erie Insurance and its employees,” says Keith Bennett, agency director for the Elmwood Avenue Food Pantry. “It’s a great day when they deliver the turkey boxes. You can tell they are committed to this project and not doing it because they have to… but because they enjoy doing it.”

Big numbers, big impact

Now in its 33rd year, the Thanksgiving Dinner Drive has grown to a massive undertaking. Here’s what that looks like:

  • More than 70,000 families have benefitted from the turkey drive.
  • That breaks down to more than 250,000 individuals.
  • It takes roughly 1,250hours to put everything in motion.
  • More than 300 volunteers freely give their time to make it happen

Penny Spacht, program coordinator and a senior instructional design specialist at ERIE, says the Thanksgiving Dinner Drive is a testament to what ERIE is all about: Putting people first.

“No matter your religion, your nationality, or your economic circumstances, we all have something we can be thankful for,” she said. “This event is a sign of our commitment to continue the tradition of helping our neighbors.” 

Erie Insurance Annual Thanksgiving Dinner Drive

One act of kindness evolved into a grassroots campaign involving family, friends, co-workers at Erie Insurance. The Thanksgiving Dinner Drive helps to feed thousands in Erie, Pennsylvania each Thanksgiving by delivering holiday meals to nonprofits around the area.

Watch the video

Did you know?

Through ERIE Service Corps, a companywide initiative, teams of employees have the opportunity to serve in their communities during the workweek.

ERIE offers employees 7.5 hours of paid time annually to participate in company-sponsored team events for non-profit organizations that focus on community building, safety, and environmental responsibility. The Thanksgiving Dinner Drive is one of many ways ERIE employees spend time helping communities each year.

Whether it’s community service, customer service or claims service, doing the right thing is what we’re all about. Learn more about our culture of service or see what we’ve been up to with the ERIE Giving Network.

What started out as one kind gesture more than 30 years ago has become a signature event for Erie Insurance, impacting hundreds of families each year. /blog/erie-turkey-man Erie Insurance