South Congaree, SC (Paul Kirby) – For many, Wednesday, November 27, 2019, was like any other day before a holiday break. People scurried around making final plans for Thanksgiving Day. Other workers rushed and tried to finish those last details before being off for the holiday. Meanwhile, a strategic invasion of Lexington County was happening most never noticed. Only the trained professionals of the county’s police, fire, and EMS teams were aware that there was a turkey invasion happening! By day’s end, 90 cooked turkeys, smoke or fried, and had been delivered.
What was all this for, and where were all these turkeys going? Through the generosity of Lexington County’s elected leaders, every single fire department, every police department, including Irmo, Batesburg-Leesville, Cayce, West Columbia, and Chapin, as well as several EMS crews, received at least one smoked turkey for the crews on duty. Some larger departments received two so everyone could eat. The remainder, a bit less than 40, were sold to the public.
All the funds were for the South Congaree Event’s Committee for the Christmas. The profits will fund the Tree Lighting, the town’s Christmas Parade, and other Christmas plans. None is being used for any other purpose. “These funds are going to the Special Events Committee for the Christmas Celebration. This was approved by Mayor Danny Jones, who also donated money and hired a young man to help throughout the day,” Paul Kirby stated.
A small team of volunteers orchestrated Operation Turkey Invasion. Three from the South Congaree Business Association and the chair of the South Congaree Special Events Committee planned the attack with several co-conspirators. None had prior military experience, but the invasion went like clockwork, almost!
“There were a few small glitches,” said one planner. “We had ninety turkeys sold and miscalculated how many we had on hand! The day of the event, we bought thawed turkeys as cheaply as possible.” Several stores helped, but Shumpert’s IGA in Pelion, SC bent over backward. “We hit them twice and their meats’ manager had carts full waiting for us. They were very affordable. Without them, we would have been short and turning away customers who prepaid,” Kirby said.
As the last-minute buying spree was happening, other members of the group including “General” & Master Chef Bobby Jeffcoat and “Colonels” Teddy Huff, and Sylvia Corley-Drennan were leading a team of assistants in cleaning turkeys, buying turkeys, or smoking or frying the 90, then wrapping them in foil for delivery. “There was a unit of crack commandos helping,” stated Kirby Thanksgiving morning. “It really was something to see! By 4:30 p.m. Wednesday the distribution team swung into action!”
“Captain” & Logistic Coordinator Diana Nation worked all day planning for the delivery. She had taken direction from Lexington County Fire Service's Battalion Chief Brad Amick about delivering theirs’ to hubs and coordinating routes. Those plans were modified several times and then assigned to drivers. “A few departments picked theirs’ up, but most were delivered to the hubs who took it from there,” Nation said. "Sgt. Stone of the Sawnsea PD helped. He moved a bunch taking Pelion's and a number for firefighters in stations southeast and that way."
By 6:30 p.m., every fire department, police department, and several EMS crews had turkeys delivered to the their department’s and hub stations where crews could get them. The citizens who bought, picked theirs up. “We had 90 sold, and were short one cooked bird,” Kirby said. “Luckily, one person failed to pick up!”
“We could have covered every Sheriff’s Department substation and every EMS unit in the county,” Kirby said Thursday. “The problem was, we ran out of grill space, fryers, and help! If we do it next year, we are going to have to recruit more volunteers, more fryers, and another grill,” Kirby said.
Who paid for 90 turkeys and all the oil and other necessities? Most of the men and women organizers donated some personal funds. The public bought theirs to help the town, and the rest were funded by donations from Lexington County elected officials who readily offered to help. They included:
Senator Katrina Shealy
Senator Ronnie Cromer
Rep. Mac Toole
Rep. Kit Spires
Rep. Paula Rawl Calhoon
Rep. Chip Huggins
Rep. Micah Caskey
Lexington County Council Chairman Scott Whetstone
Lexington County Councilmember Todd Cullum
Lexington County Councilmember Glen Conwell
West Columbia Mayor Tem Miles
Lexington Mayor Steve MacDougall
South Congaree Mayor Danny Jones
Chapin Town Councilmember Al Koon
Cayce Director of Public Safety Byron Snellgrove
South Congaree Businessman Ray Borden, owner of R&S Motors and Woodtex
There were also a number of volunteers who pitched in. We would list them all, but we are afraid we would miss someone. "Happy Thanksgiving," Kirby said in his official statement. "We couldn't have made this happen without the caring donations and volunteers!"