WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL)- An Eastern Iowa nonprofit gave 1,000 local families an extra reason to be thankful this year, in the form of a free Thanksgiving meal.
For the fifth year in a row, the Iowa Giving Crew held its "Operation Give Birds" on Sunday. The group passed out 600 Thanksgiving meals in Cedar Rapids, 200 in Iowa City and 200 in Waterloo.
The meal and all the fixings feed a family of four. It includes turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetable, and all the fixings.
It all started after Austin Hermsen said his friend pulled a harmless prank on him in 2017.
"Somebody put my phone number on my Craigslist saying my wife and I were giving away free turkeys, so a bunch of my friends got together, and we ended up giving out Turkey or full Thanksgiving meals that year," Hermsen said. "It has just evolved from there, and we have become a nonprofit called Iowa Giving Crew, and we've just expanded every single year."
Over the years, both the operation and demand from the community have grown in size. Last year, "Operation Give Birds" expanded to Iowa City. This year, they also included Waterloo.
As someone who spent several years living in the Cedar Valley, Hermsen said he knew the area could use it.
"I know that the need wasn't just in Cedar Rapids there in Iowa City," he said. "I know that there's a need everywhere, and so it's good definitely to expand to Waterloo and help people here as well."
You do need to pre-register to get a meal. As of Thursday, all slots were full and the nonprofit said volunteers distributed all available meals on Sunday.
Hermsen recommended people follow the Iowa Giving Crew Facebook page to stay up to date on Operation Give Birds. He said they post updates leading up to the event on how to sign up or volunteer your time or money to help the cause.