A volunteer hands out food, courtesy of the Food Bank if the Rockies at the 2022 Operation Freebird, sponsored by the Adams County Sheriff's Office Credit: File photo

While the core impulse behind Operation Freebird, the free Thanksgiving food giveaway sponsored by the Adams County Sheriff’s office, has remained the same over 19 years, a few things have changed.

“The goal, our mission, has never really changed,” said Sgt. Adam Sherman of the Adams County Sheriff’s Department said. “We want to make a direct positive impact on the community we serve here in Adams County, and the event has grown and we’ve started getting people from all over the metro area who attend not just for the food but for all of the other resources we provide.”

Operation Freebird is an annual event designed to provide all the makings for a Thanksgiving meal, from the bird to the rolls to the cranberries to the pie. No profits or income are generated by this event. The sheriff’s office, the Adams County Sheriff’s Foundation and more than 40 local non-profit agencies and other community partners also help provide a range of services to the needy in the North Metropolitan area.

The Thanksgiving giveaway returns from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 18 at Mountain States Toyota, 201 W. 70th Ave. in Denver. There is no registration needed, so residents just need to show up and collect their food.

A movable feast

Operation Freebird offers more than just a Thanksgiving meal. Social agencies, credit unions and other groups offer a variety of services at the 2022 event.

This is the second year Mountain States Toyota has hosted the giveaway. When it started in 2004, it was hosted at Rocky’s Autos along Federal Boulevard.

“We started offering help for a few hundred people in the early days at the Rocky’s Auto lot on 64th and Federal, and from there, we’ve had to expand and go to different locations,” Sherman said. “The amount of people who show up just kept growing, and as we’ve increased our advertising and promotions of the event, volunteers and local businesses have been attracted to the event, too. We’ve been able to provide services to a greater number of people.”

Another thing that will be the same as last year is that volunteers won’t be handing over an actual turkey. Just like in 2022, people who come to Operation Freebird will get a voucher from Butterball that can be exchanged for a bird anywhere Butterball turkeys are sold.

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“Logistically, getting our hands on thousands of frozen turkeys and storing them and transporting them was a logistical nightmare,” he said.

The giveaway also includes a box of food, all the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal courtesy of Food Bank of the Rockies.

“We have cans and non-perishable items and we have fresh produce,” he said. “Our goal is to provide a complete Thanksgiving meal and fixings for a family of four in each box we provide.”

Those attending will have the opportunity to receive free health screenings, dental screenings, vaccinations, mental health services, and various other Adams County programs for employment assistance, childcare programs, and more.

“The gist is providing the food products, but we have partnered with Centura Health and with Kaiser to where we have had flu and COVID vaccines and various other medical services,” he said. “We’ve had dental offices who come out and do dental screenings, we have a whole variety of programs through Adams County’s human services for WIC, and Headstart.”

County services include help for job seekers, and housing support among other things.

“We church participants who hand out clothing items, we’ve had a bookmobile,” he said. “Its’ just a huge, wide variety of people who come out to help and be part of this event, reaching out to people in need.”

The event is working with retailer Home Depot this year, and the company will have staff onsite handing out hats and gloves.

This event will serve approximately 800 families on-site or until supplies run out, Sherman said.

“It runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but we do have people who show up early and wait,” he said. “It goes as long as our supplies last. During COVID, we had services left over. But there have been other years when we ran out early. It’s hard to gauge what it is going to be like year to year. So we recommend people dress for the weather, come out and enjoy the services and we hope they have a good time.”

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