Bronx man turns tragedy into charity through Thanksgiving turkey giveaway

More than 1,100 turkeys will be handed out to Bronx families in need on Saturday.

The turkey giveaway, hosted by the Gardiner Foundation at St. James Park, looks to help families who are less fortunate with their Thanksgiving meals.

The annual event, which kicks off at 9 a.m., is something Dexter Gardiner has been organizing as part of the foundation he created to memorialize members of his family who died in a car crash on the Bronx River Parkway in 2006, including his twin brother, niece and two nephews.

“We’ve been doing this for the last nine years,” said Gardiner. “It brings the community together and helps those who don’t have any resources to get good meals for the holiday.”

Each year, the foundation supplies families with turkeys along with ingredients to make other Thanksgiving classics — canned corn and green beans, yams and potatoes among them — which they purchase at a discounted price from a nearby restaurant depot. 

“We’ve been working with [the depot] for the last nine years, and they’re always willing to help us and the community out,” said Gardiner. “I know, personally, I do this to try to just give back because giving back and helping people, it’s what gives me the motivation to keep waking up every day.”

Jeff Korek, a lawyer with Gersowitz Libo & Korek, P.C. and co-organizer of the event, described the giveaway as "holiday-esique."

“So many people come out to this,” said Korek. “Members of the NYPD come to help us out. You get to meet members of the community you wouldn’t meet otherwise, and it’s a real great event to just bring people together.”

The turkey drive is only one of several initiatives Gardiner has organized to give back to his community, Korek added. In addition to toy drives and basketball tournaments, the Gardiner Foundation has provided educational scholarships, mentoring programs, financial and emotional support, and burial assistance to families. 

"[Gardiner] could have crawled into a hole and disappeared and felt sorry for himself and his family, but instead, he’s giving back to the people of the Bronx and his community," said Korek. "The turkey giveaway is an amazing way I’ve seen Gardiner doing so.”

Last year, Gardiner and Korek said the foundation handed out 1,000 turkeys but it wasn’t enough for the number of people who came out to the event. This year, they’re preparing for more and decided to create a sign-up sheet.

“We started this new thing where people who want to show up must fill out a sign-up sheet,” said Gardiner. “This helps us know about how many people are coming, and how much to have [ready].”

Sign-up sheets were distributed throughout several neighborhoods, Gardiner said. Residents were asked to fill them out and hand them back to the foundation, while keeping an attached slip. When they arrive at the giveaway, they show the slip and get their food.

For those who are just passing by or come without signing up, there will be a separate line where items are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, Gardiner added.

In addition to the turkey giveaway, 100 coats will be distributed to youth in the community.

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