What began as a small church volunteer effort in 2013 – helping to provide turkey dinners for Siena Francis House residents at Thanksgiving – turned into an annual calling for Tim Stephan, shift supervisor at OPPD’s North Omaha Station.
“We do plan for this all year long,” Stephan said. “The majority of it is the week of. I usually take one or two weeks of vacation to prep.”
Under his leadership, a team of 60 or so volunteers works from Stephan’s home, frying upwards of 100 seasoned turkeys. Thawing and injecting the donated birds is a weeklong process Tim handles mostly on his own.
“I buy a Cajun seasoning that I like to use because I hear it’s popular with the residents,” he said.
Once volunteers debone the cooked turkeys, they freeze meet in storage bags with chicken stock to keep the meat moist until it’s needed on Thanksgiving. You can watch the process in action in the video below.
The effort is a huge undertaking, but Stephan gets a lot of help.
“I definitely want to thank my North Omaha (Station) co-workers who have really helped out and donated to this event,” Tim said.
From OPPD colleagues to other friends and family, the annual turkey fry is well-known to those who know Tim.
“If you have ever talked to my husband,” his wife, Lisa Stephan, said, “You’ll get a text and an invite.”
With the Sienna Francis house counting on the Stephans’ efforts, they found a way to carry on even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We kept it to just family,” Tim said. “About five of us managed to cook and prep around 50 or 60 turkeys.”
He admitted he doesn’t get much sleep a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, pulling this all together. But taking care of the shelter’s residents and guests is worth it.
“We do not know what their struggles are like, but they need a helping hand,” he said. “And if we can give them at least one good meal, we all believe in that.”
Tim’s volunteer brigade is giving the shelter enough cooked turkey to provide for not only Thanksgiving, but a couple of extra meals.
“I encourage everybody to do some community service in some way. I feel this is a small part, but we can do more.”
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