It is turkey time again at Keene State College and KSC is giving back to those in need with its 31st annual Thanksgiving Basket Drive.

Every Thanksgiving, Administrative Assistant of KSC Human Resources Valerie Hodge sends out a request to every department at the college. She asks for Thanksgiving baskets, those that contain stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce and the rest of the foods that support a Thanksgiving feast. Hodge said she also invites students to participate.

The only essential Thanksgiving food it lacks is a turkey. A grocery gift card is provided in lieu of the meat.

Hodge sends out a suggested donation list when she announces the basket drive. The list has 23 items. However, she said an entire basket is not necessary. “Sometimes people can’t make a full basket, but we still accept what they bring in. Say for instance you just want to donate some canned goods, well those are acceptable.”

Hodge said some departments go above and beyond while constructing their baskets. She said some departments put small gifts for children in their baskets. “If you want to add crayons, things like that, you can do that.”

Hodge has been managing the drive since 2012 and said she thinks it is a great way for KSC to help support the community. She said all the baskets go to the Keene Community Kitchen, where “a lot [of the baskets] go to families.”

According to Hodge, last year, KSC constructed 64 baskets of food and collected over $2,000 in cash, checks and gift cards for the Keene Community Kitchen.

“Hopefully this year, we can go above. I hope we can beat that number,” Hodge said.

Executive Director of the Keene Community Kitchen Phoebe Bray said she is thankful for KSC’s annual charity. “It helps an amazing amount,” Bray said. “The baskets have everything you could conceivably want.” Bray said in order to qualify for a basket, a family has to register for one. She also said the family must undergo financial verification by providing proof of income.

KSC is not the only place in Keene that helps the Community Kitchen. According to Bray, local company C&S Wholesale Grocers has an annual Turkey Trot. The event allows every C&S employee to either take home a turkey for Thanksgiving or to donate it to Keene Community Kitchen. Bray said they received 240 turkeys from C&S this year.

The Elm City Rotary also helps the Keene Community Kitchen with its poultry needs.

Bray said the Keene Community Kitchen also serves chickens on Thanksgiving. “If you’re a single senior on your own, you don’t want a 14-pound turkey, unless you want to eat it for the next three months, so we give them a chicken.”

Bray said this year they were “woefully short on chickens.” The Elm City Rotary heard about the shortage and, according to Bray, donated $635 in poultry purchasing power. “It’s a phenomenal community effort,” Bray said.

KSC’s Thanksgiving baskets were collected Friday, Nov. 17 in the West Dining Room of the L.P. Young Student Center.

Assistant Director of Human Resources Josh Jarvis helped collect the baskets last Friday. He said he was impressed with the individual donations and that the graphic design department donated three baskets, which he said is uncommon. Jarvis said he’s excited to participate in the drive. “This, for me, is my trigger of the holidays…this is the first sense of that warm sharing feeling. This is my kick-off for the holiday season,” he said.

Hodge’s wish for an increase in charity came true. According to an e-mail from Hodge sent out after the drive ended, KSC amassed 71 baskets of food this year, along with $1,616.50 in cash, checks and gift cards. They were delivered to the Keene Community Kitchen Friday, Nov. 17.

If you wish to volunteer or get involved at Keene Community Kitchen, they are located at 37 Mechanic Street.

Alex Fleming can be contacted at

Other article in this series: 

“KSC brings awareness during the holiday: Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week”

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