Friends Put the Feast Back in Thanksgiving
Helping the Less Fortunate in Michigan
A 14-pound turkey, with all the traditional fixings, was delivered to 1024 families in Lansing and Kalamazoo, Michigan, with help from a former football star and community volunteers.
For years, Josh Thompson, Jeremy Wetting and T.J. Duckett were working independently every Thanksgiving to provide families with a holiday meal. Thompson and Weitting were providing several Thanksgiving meals to families in Southwest Michigan. Duckett, a former professional football star, was giving out turkeys in Lansing through his non-profit, New World Flood.
They became aware of each other’s efforts and they decided to join forces four years ago to create the Hands Up Project. Since starting with only a handful of families each, and a goal to double their efforts each year after, their effort has grown exponentially. Now they make an even bigger impact on Michigan families.
“Being able to provide that one meal of the year where families spend time together and connect is what it’s all about for me,” said Jeremy, a State Farm Agent in Otsego, MI. “It’s about contributing to your community when you have the ability to do it.”
To help cover the costs of assembling and donating over 1,000 turkey dinners, the group organizes fundraisers. Duckett serves as a celebrity bartender or barista, signing autographs in exchange for tips. Proceeds are used to purchase supplies for the giveaway. Duckett was a 1998 graduate of Loy Norrix High School. He was a star running back at Michigan State University before being drafted in the first round to play football professionally. He then went on to play in in Atlanta, Washington DC, Detroit and Seattle.
Duckett started a non-profit, New World Flood, to “flood the world with service." New World Flood spread the philosophy that a single raindrop is the beginning of a flood. The Hands Up Project believes that people want a “hand up, not a hand out.” Those constructive beliefs have resulted in a synergy, making a profound impact in southwest Michigan each Thanksgiving.
“People are in need all over. We have an opportunity to take care of a few of them, if just for one day,” says Duckett, who grew up in Kalamazoo and now lives in Lansing. “It’s important to give back. I realized the secret is to give and serve and put as much energy into this mission as I did into football.”