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Barry has to reschedule D.C. Thanksgiving giveaway for lack of turkeys

In an event unrelated to Marion Barry's turkey Nora Powell weeps as she receives her food bag at FedEx Field. She was sad she couldn't move her leg. She was among the Prince George's County residents to whom Redskin players and volunteers distributed food baskets.
In an event unrelated to Marion Barry's turkey Nora Powell weeps as she receives her food bag at FedEx Field. She was sad she couldn't move her leg. She was among the Prince George's County residents to whom Redskin players and volunteers distributed food baskets. (Carol Guzy/the Washington Post)

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By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 6:13 PM

On Tuesday morning, with residents anxiously awaiting D.C. Council member Marion Barry's annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway at a Southeast Washington church, Barry - a former mayor known for his work with the less fortunate - didn't have his poultry.

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In his words, he didn't have "the birds."

Barry (D-Ward 8) blamed Giant food stores for the problem with the giveaway, which has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, when the promised poultry should be thawed enough to distribute. He said the company, which has been praised for opening the first new supermarket in his ward in several years, was inflexible when he fell $9,000 short of the $26,000 he needed to buy 2,000 turkeys.

"It's heartless. That's all," Barry said.

Jamie Miller, a spokesman for Giant, said the chain delivered 250 turkeys Tuesday and would provide the rest Wednesday. In a statement, Miller said the company began working with Barry this month and offered free delivery of the birds to Union Temple Church.

"While we're disappointed in the Councilmember's comments, Giant is committed to delivering the remainder of the turkeys so that hundreds of families in Ward 8 can enjoy their Thanksgiving meals," Miller said. "Giant is a proud and strong supporter of alleviating hunger in the communities we are privileged to serve."

Barry, who said he initially thought about staging a boycott, vowed to continue working with Giant and to follow through with what has become a Thanksgiving tradition.

"I'll have 1,750 turkeys tomorrow," Barry said in an interview Tuesday. "I'm going to raise the money . . . had the money committed, but it takes two or three weeks to get through the corporate system."

Barry declined to identify contributors to his turkey giveaway, which will be held at Union Temple Church on W Street SE. "They do it because they want to give, not for publicity," he said.

He acknowledged that raising money has become increasingly difficult. Last year, Barry mustered $20,000, but it wasn't enough to meet a demand so high that police had to intervene when he ran out of turkeys.

Barry said he initially set a goal of 4,000 turkeys for this year but realized it would be an impossible feat. He aimed lower but said businesses were "tapped out," pointing to the mayoral race between incumbent Adrian M. Fenty (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D). "This campaign dried up a lot of money with Vince's $2 million and Fenty's $4 or $5 million," Barry said.

Still, Barry said he tried to salvage his giveaway by talking to a Giant regional vice president on the phone Monday night. As for the families, Barry said he expected them to return Wednesday.

"They were very understanding," he said of the 300 residents who came to the giveaway Tuesday.


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