NWTF’s ‘Turkey Hunters Care’ program helps those in need at Thanksgiving


For hunters, the weeks leading up to turkey season — whether in the fall or spring — are all about preparing for the hunt, with the hopes that they’ll be successful in harvesting a bird.

Come November, however, some local turkey hunting aficionados shift their focus to giving rather than taking birds, all in an effort to help families in need.

For well over a decade, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Lehigh County-based Jerry Zimmerman Memorial Chapter and Northampton County-based Walking Purchase Chapter have been participating in the “Turkey Hurters Care” program, a national initiative started by the NWTF in 2001 to help the less fortunate during the holiday season.

From coast to coast, local NWTF chapters have made a difference in their communities by donating tens of thousands of frozen, domestic turkeys to help ensure families can enjoy a delicious meal at Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. And although the national Turkey Hurters Care ended five years ago, the two chapters continue to offer a local version of the program to benefit area residents.

“The NWTF is not just a one-dimensional organization,” said North Whitehall Township’s Gary Gray, who has served as the Jerry Zimmerman Chapter’s Turkey Hunters Care committee chairman for the past seven years. “Sure, we are turkey hunters, but there is a lot more we do.

“We are actively involved in outdoor education for youth and women, conservation projects, land acquisition and habitat improvement. We live in the community and try to give back to it. Our annual turkey distribution is just one way we do that.”

The Jerry Zimmerman Chapter started its Turkey Hunters Care program more than 15 years ago, initially providing birds to the Lehigh County Conference of Churches. For the past seven years the group has been donating turkeys to the City Limits Assembly of God Food Bank, helping to provide food to families in need throughout the Allentown area.

The Walking Purchase Chapter has been involved with Turkey Hunters Care since the chapter’s formation 14 years ago, making an annual donation to the Northampton Area Food Bank in Northampton. Last year the two chapters combined to raise more than $1,100, donating more than 70 birds.

“We have a chapter raffle and the chapter raffle money is just for the chapter to use for local projects such as this,” said Walking Purchase Chapter president David Lee.

With Thanksgiving two weeks away, both chapters once again are preparing to make their annual donations of turkeys for the holiday season. The Walking Purchase Chapter will visit the Northampton Area Food Bank on Wednesday, Nov. 15. The Jerry Zimmerman Chapter will drop off its birds on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Both groups stress that the program is really all about trying to make a difference in their community and helping to ensure everyone has a wonderful holiday season.

“It’s always good to help people who may not have a lot, and we’re fortunate enough to be able to do that,” Lee said. “We support everybody, not just turkey hunters.”

Budnick Named Deputy WCO for Northampton County

Dakota Budnick is part of the latest class of Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers sworn in by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The Northampton resident has been assigned to Northampton County, where he will assist WCO Brad Kreider in enforcing the state’s game and wildlife code.

According to the PGC, Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers participate in most areas of Game Commission operations and have law enforcement powers as authorized by the Game and Wildlife Code. Applicants must complete a 20-hour supervised ride-along period with a WCO, undergo a character investigation, do one week of training and home study, and then pass a certification examination before being sworn in as a Deputy WCO.

Local TU Chapter Receives $1,000 Grant for Bushkill Creek Work

The wild brown trout population of the Bushkill Creek in Northampton County will benefit from a $1,000 Trout Unlimited Embrace A Stream Grant recently awarded to the Forks of the Delaware TU Chapter. The money will be used to help the chapter prepare for a restoration and habitat improvement project on a 1.9-mile stretch of the “Class A” trout stream.

Embrace A Stream is a matching grant program that provides money to local TU chapters and councils for cold water fisheries conservation. Since its start in 1975, the program has funded more than 1,000 projects via $4.4 million in cash grants.

Mark Demko is a freelance writer. Contact him at mdemko@ptd.net or follow him on Twitter at @markdemko1.

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