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Firefighters with ‘Big Hearts’ grill up 208 turkeys for Thanksgiving feasts

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Firefighters from Indian River County Fire Rescue spent their off hours the last two days grilling up more than 200 turkeys to be carved up and served to needy families as well as emergency personnel on call over the holiday.

About a dozen volunteers unloaded 80 large turkeys – many 24 pounds – from a refrigerated truck and made quick work of rubbing them down with raspberry jam and rolling them in three layers of aluminum foil. For about four hours, the birds roasted in the propane-fired grill, becoming tender and juicy.

Among the volunteers on Tuesday were County Commissioners Joe Flescher and Wesley Davis.

Before getting to work on rolling up the turkeys in foil, Flescher removed his wedding band.

“Someone’s going to get a lucky bird,” he quipped if not for taking off the ring.

On hand later in the day was Emergency Services Director John King, who popped out of the Emergency Operations Center for a few minutes to see how the cooking was going.

“It goes to a good cause,” he said of the volunteers’ time and effort.

The turkeys that weren’t packed up for the police stations, Sheriff’s dispatch office, and fire stations, were sent to numerous agencies and organizations that would feed the needy a Thanksgiving feast.

Such organizations included The Source, the Samaritan Center, Salvation Army, and the Homeless Family Center, to name a few.

The turkey-cooking effort is part of the Big Heart Brigade, a non-profit group that started out providing Thanksgiving meals to on-duty emergency personnel.

Indian River County has been participating for six years, though only the last three have seen volunteers cook up the turkeys locally.

“We’re here to help the best we can,” Big Heart Brigade board member and Assistant Fire Chief Ed Prime said.

With the economy being the way it is, the organization has seen an increase in the need from the community, he said.

When the county first got involved, volunteers served up 25 meals. This year, they estimate their turkeys will help 203 people have a festive Thanksgiving.

Along with the raspberry glazed turkey, volunteers packed up mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, dessert and other traditional trimmings.

Volunteers said that this year’s effort would not have been possible if not for the help from Ken Gregory Produce, Publis and Ameri-Gas.

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