This year, the Ministerial Association Temporary Shelter is celebrating 30 years of its longest running fundraiser.
The tradition of smoking turkeys started just four years after MATS’ founding and quickly became a holiday staple for many in the community.
MATS Executive Director Tonya Polidoro said they have many repeat customers at the event, several of whom have been purchasing their Thanksgiving turkeys from the organization since the first year and rely on each year’s sale.
“There’s no question that we would not have been able to keep this fundraiser going so successfully for the past 30 years if it were not for the faithful support of the community,” she said. “We are humbled and incredibly grateful that we have been able to continue and even expand this event each year.”
Each year, volunteers and staff gather starting in the very early hours on the day before Thanksgiving. A crew has already cleaned and prepped the turkeys the day before in the kitchen of First Presbyterian Church, and they are ready to be loaded into the smoking pits at All Saints Episcopal Church. The turkeys are smoked in two batches of more than 100 at a time.
“These two churches are another integral part of this event,” Polidoro said. “We are so blessed by their willingness to continue to allow us to use their facilities to clean and cook our turkeys.”
Volunteers come and go throughout the day to make sure the fires stay hot and the turkeys are basted and cooked to perfection.
They then bag the turkeys, attach reheating instructions, and box them up to take to the distribution area.
“Executing this event takes a lot of manpower,” Polidoro said. “We have an amazing group of consistent workers each year who work hard to make sure everything goes as planned.
The MATS parking lot is full of excitement as well, with smoked turkey and pre-cooked ham distribution, local vendors set up for early Christmas shopping, and a large assortment of baked goods perfect for the Thanksgiving dessert table (or an afternoon snack.)
When weather permits, there are also activities for the children, and the Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society brings dogs available for adoption.
This year’s turkey smoking will take place from noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 25 at MATS, located at 733 West Main Street.
Turkeys and hams are available for pre-order now at matstn.com, and mail-in order forms will go out at the beginning of November. Orders can also be made in person at MATS or by calling 423-587-9215.
Smoked turkeys are between 11 and 13 pounds and can feed around 8 adults for just $40 each.
Pre-cooked spiral hams are between eight and ten pounds and can feed around 12 adults for just $35 each.
Special pricing is available for orders of 10 or more turkeys. Be sure to call for details.