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Thanksgiving turkeys, more make Christmas brighter for Food for the Soul

Posted: November 15, 2013 4:53 p.m.
Updated: November 18, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Miciah Bennett/C-I

Bert and Vaughan Dew, of Camden, are taking Thanksgiving turkey orders until Friday. For the last three years, the Dews have taken orders for various Thanksgiving foods to help Camden’s Food For the Soul. Last year the Dews gave Food for the Soul more than $2,500 in money and goods.

For the third year in a row, two of Santa’s helpers are gearing up to drop off some Christmas cheer to Food for the Soul (FFTS).

Camden’s Bert and Vaughan Dew are taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys, pork tenderloins, pineapple salsa and chocolate cakes through Friday. All sales benefit FFTS, a food kitchen and temporary shelter on East DeKalb Street in Camden for those in need.

Bert Dew said he’s been cooking turkeys since the mid-1970s, but just recently started cooking for the community. When Vaughan Dew started working at Camden High School, she talked up her husbands’ cooking skills and people started showing interest in having Bert prepare turkeys for their families. Four years ago, on Bert’s 60th birthday, Vaughan threw him a party and told guests not to bring presents. Like good friends, they brought gifts anyway, she said. After the party, however, Vaughan said Bert and his mother talked about having guests bring one thing for Food for the Soul if he should ever have another birthday party. Bert said knowing that they have made a small difference and helped those less fortunate in their time of need is the greatest gift they could ever receive.

“We decided to have a party with a purpose,” Vaughan Dew said. “(Bert) said let’s step out on faith and this will be our community service project. We love this place and it’s our love letter to (Camden).”

Vaughan Dew said she and Bert were touched that Camden started and sustains FFTS.

“Most everyone has been at the end of their ropes at some point. Everyone knows what it’s like to be extremely tight; so many people are just one paycheck away from homelessness,” he said. “It’s good to give back.”

Each year, FFTS Director Fred Ogburn gives the Dews a “Want List” and they deliver the goods with Christmas “joy” and large card, Ogburn said.

Just how did a little Thanksgiving turkey and dessert provide more than $2,500 in cash, checks and various goods last year?

The Dews take the money from the Thanksgiving turkey sales and use it to host a party. In 2012, they had about 80 people attend, Vaughan Dew said. They have a live band, food and drinks and each person is required to bring at least one item to donate to FFTS. Most people bring more than one item. The party allows the couple to give more than what they would be able to give using the sales money only, Vaughan Dew said. On the night of the party, guests place their donations on the back of Bert’s truck and they haul it off to FFTS on Christmas Day. Bert came up with the idea for the party, Vaughan Dew said.

“The best part is delivering the stuff the next day. People want to give but aren’t sure they’ll make an impact,” she said. “When people fill up the truck, it makes us realize how fortunate we are compared to some others and how good people’s hearts are.”

Bert Dew starts cooking at about 4 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving and doesn’t finish until about 12 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. He works a few days ahead for customers who plan to go out of town. In 2012, the couple sold about 15 turkeys, 19 pork tenderloins and nine lava cakes. It takes about two and a half hours to cook a turkey, Bert Dew said. The Dews have four oil-free-deep fryers. Vaughan said the oil-free method is a healthier option than a turkey fried in oil, but looks and tastes like one that has been fried that way. The pork tenderloin, their most popular seller, is marinated and cooked on the grill. Bert said he uses his friends as guinea pigs to test out new items like the pineapple salsa they sell for $2. There are other items they could offer, but Bert Dew said he rather do a few things well.

“Cooking is like making love: you have to be fearless,” he said.

“You do -- and patient,” Vaughan Dew added.

Bert said, to this day, his mother is the best cook he knows, although she wasn’t exposed to a grill. Although prices have gone up on turkeys, the Dews have kept their original price so that the people who want to buy them can afford them.

Ogburn said the Dews have supported FFTS very generously and that they couldn’t do what we do without the support of the community.

“To know that there are people who care about our guests and what we do means a lot, especially as we head into what we are predicting to be a long, cold winter season,” Ogburn said.

FFTS operates as a winter shelter on nights that are 36 degrees or below. Ogburn said operating costs go up in the winter and that’s when the support of people like Bert and Vaughan Dew is the most important.

Thanksgiving Turkey Prices: All whole turkeys are in the 16- to 18-pound range and will feed 15 to 20 people; turkey breasts are in the 6- to 8-pound range and will feed five to eight people. All turkeys are temperature probed. Deep fried (injected with spices and deep fried in an oil-free Big Easy Fryer) and smoked turkeys: whole -- $50, breast -- $35. Barbequed turkeys, whole only: $75 Pork Tenderloins: $25 for two slices. Pineapple salsa: $2 for 8 oz. Chocolate lava cakes: $16 each. Contact the Dews at 572-2300.

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