MANATEE COUNTY — Two Thanksgivings ago, East County resident Rochelle Herman knew she had much to be thankful for, but she didn’t feel that way.
Recently divorced, she was planning to spend the holiday alone, while her children enjoyed festivities with their father and grandparents.
“I was really upset,” Herman said. “I didn’t want to be alone on (Thanksgiving).”
So just before Thanksgiving 2007, as Rochelle finished up the Walk with a Doc program she hosted at Mattison’s City Grille in Sarasota, she turned to the restaurant’s owner, Paul Mattison, and asked a pivotal question: “Do you know anyone else who is going to be alone for Thanksgiving?”
Without a moment’s hesitation, the chef offered to provide a Thanksgiving meal to whomever she visited.
And in that moment, the future Turkey Trolley was born.
Herman, a broadcaster, producer and columnist, began tracking down as many people as she could. As people heard about her efforts, a group of nearly 40 individuals rallied for the cause, choosing to spend their Thanksgiving riding the Sarasota Trolley and distributing meals to individuals who were alone for the holiday — a special delivery Herman calls a “Turkey Gram.”
The tradition has stuck — Pilgrim and American Indian costumes and Turkey Day song and all.
Currently, Herman is accepting nominations for individuals who are eligible to receive Turkey Grams.
“It’s about people who are home alone,” Herman said. “It has nothing to do with economic status.”
Herman also is looking for volunteers who would like to participate in the festivities. Participants will ride the trolley to locations throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties and deliver Thanksgiving meals to nominees. Unless restricted by space, every volunteer — regardless of numbers — will help deliver each Turkey Gram.
Herman said the holiday spirit the Turkey Trolley promotes among its riders and Turkey Gram recipients is infectious.
“There were so many tears (of happiness), it makes you want to do more,” Herman said. “On this day, you become interlinked like a family.”
Volunteers will meet at 8:30 a.m., Nov. 26, at Mattison’s, 1 Lemon Ave., Sarasota, and deliver meals from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Half-day riders also are welcome.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
Turkey Trolley Fundraiser
WHAT: Silent Auction
WHEN: 6-9 p.m., Nov. 19
WHERE: Polo Grill and Bar, 10670 Boardwalk Loop, Lakewood Ranch
INFORMATION: Auction, Audrey Landers STAR Collection Fashion Show and more
CONTACT: Rochelle Herman, 350-4497
Turkey Gram Nominations
Nominees must be home alone for Thanksgiving.
Turkey Grams can be anonymous or signed with a personal note. Registration for nomination should be sent to HBOA Turkey Trolley, P.O. Box 52546, Sarasota, FL 34232. Nominations are limited to 40.
The program is free, but donations are appreciated. Sponsorships of the Turkey Trolley are available. To become a sponsor or to register as a Turkey Trolley volunteer, call Herman at 350-4497. This is an alcohol-free event.