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UND students provide turkey dinner for families down on their luck

When tight budgets make it tough for families in the Grand Forks area to plan a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, a group of UND students is stepping in to lend a hand.

When tight budgets make it tough for families in the Grand Forks area to plan a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, a group of UND students is stepping in to lend a hand.

"It's not always about the meal. It's bringing together the family, and the meal is kind of what draws everyone," said Paige Ferguson, a volunteer with the Turkey Basket Drive.

Each basket contains everything a family needs to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, from a turkey to pie filling to potatoes.

UND's Mortar Board honor society began the annual effort in 1979.

Last Thanksgiving, the group said it fed more than 700 local families. This year, nearly 1,000 families have signed up though social service agencies and churches, and there's a waiting list.

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"It's really surprising that near 1,000 families are signed up for a turkey dinner," said group member Morgan Wagner. "It's shocking and scary that you don't realize it's there until its put right in front of you."

The Turkey Basket Drive costs about $20,000 and a lot of donations come from Mortar Board members. Each of the 40 members is responsible for donating $200, not a small amount for cash-strapped college students.

Wagner said she has a coin jar at the restaurant where she works, and it actually fills up pretty quickly.

"Grand Forks has done a lot for me," said Amy Roethke. "It's an awesome community, especially if you're a student, it's very supportive. So to be able to have this opportunity to give back, it's kind of a way to say thank you for everything the community has done for me."

"You don't realize that we have people that need our help just as much as other communities," Ferguson said. "It's awesome just to help them get back on their feet in some small way."

The turkey baskets will be available for pick up 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 23 at the UND Transportation Building.

On the Web: To get to the Mortar Board website, go to bit.ly/17uhWcn.

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