Range Resources employees are in downtown Washington, PA today as the company kicks off its third annual 2000 Turkeys Food Drive. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Range volunteers will be canvassing the streets, taking donations from drivers and passersby, and seeking to beat last year’s grand total of $125,000 raised for 2000 Turkeys and the Greater Washington County Food Bank. In fact, over the last two years, with the support of the community and generous service company partners – Marcellus Shale driller Range Resources has been able to help raise over $225,000 for 2000 Turkeys.

Food Drive “headquarters” can again be found this year at the Main Street Farmers Market Pavilion, right across the downtown Washington offices of the Observer-Reporter (the founding entity behind 2000 Turkeys.) The goal of the campaign is straightforward: to provide Thanksgiving and holiday season meals to the approximately 4,700 Washington County families being served each month by the Greater Washington County Food Bank. With every $15 raised, the Food Bank is able to feed a family of four at Thanksgiving.

And while Range began their downtown Washington Food Drive in 2015, the story of 2000 Turkeys dates back over three decades.

Pete Povich is best known as the oldies-playing morning radio host on Washington, PA’s WJPA 95.3 FM. But for the last 30 years (give or take) – Pete has playing another critical role, behind the scenes in Washington County – partnering with 2000 Turkeys to help feed hundreds of thousands of individuals and families who need a hand up during the holiday season.

“When I first went full-time at WJPA in ’85 or ’86, it just so happened that it coincided with a big effort to try feed families in need around the holidays.” As Pete remembers it, a WJPA sales manager and a local community volunteer named Wayne Armstrong were basically driving around in their cars, collecting food by any means possible. It was during a time when the area had been hit hard by the decline of the steel, glass and coal industries. “People were hurting. Unemployment in Washington County was high.”

The effort to feed families grew as WJPA partnered with the Observer-Reporter, where an employee had already started the fledgling effort known as “2000 Turkeys”.

“Pittsburgh had their own Turkey Fund that [long-time KDKA television commentator] Al Julius promoted,” says Povich. “But Washington County really didn’t get much of that. We wanted to help the people in this area, so we decided to do it ourselves.”

The undertaking got bigger over the years, as the partnership between WJPA and the Observer-Reporter strengthened. The group was able to reach highs of between $40,000 and $50,000 in good years. Volunteer Wayne Armstrong (who passed away in 2010) remained a key member. “He lived and breathed 2000 Turkeys,” says Pete. “He cared so much. Until the day he died. And I’ll never forget him saying to me one day: please, please continue this program. And I felt that weight on my shoulders.”

Pete is still on the air lending his voice and talents to 2000 Turkeys. But in 2015, just as Range Resources was getting ready to host their very first food drive on behalf of that effort, times were particularly tough at the Greater Washington County Food Bank. Pennsylvania had reached a budget impasse, and there was no additional funding for the Food Bank coming from the state.

“And – absolutely, incredibly, beyond anything we could have planned – we had a huge, unexpected donation as a result of the Range Resources 2000 Turkeys Food Drive in November 2015,” says Connie Burd, Executive Director of the Greater Washington County Food Bank. “That allowed us to put out 665,000 pounds of food and 82,000 dollars’ worth of gift cards in November and December.”

Range Resources is among the largest supporters of hunger-related causes in Washington County. Together with the community, the company has been able to help raise more than $225,000 for 2000 Turkeys over the last two years. But there are still families in Washington County who are food insecure. Toward that end, Range volunteers are ready to do their best to make sure everyone in the community gets Thanksgiving dinner this holiday season.

“I can’t say enough good things about this effort,” says Povich. “Every year I’m amazed at the generosity of Washington County.”

Range Resources employees will be at the Main Street Farmers Market Pavilion from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, November 17th. Volunteers will also be taking donations at surrounding street corners. Donations of cash, checks, credit card and non-perishable food items will be accepted.

This article is written and sponsored by Range Resources.