Radio host readies for turkey drop

Contributed photo

“The need doesn’t get less, so neither can our actions,” morning radio host John DeBella said as he planned this year’s Thanksgiving Turkey drop.

For 29 years, DeBella has been hosting an annual Turkey drop. He started the tradition nearly three decades ago at WMMR, and when he switched to 102.9 MGK 13 years ago, he kept the Thanksgiving donation drive alive.

On Tuesday, Nov. 25, between 6 and 9 a.m., the on-air personality and his partners, City Team Philadelphia, will broadcast live from LOVE Park. During the event, staff will also collect turkeys, coupons and donations at Giant Food Stores across the Tri-State area.

The annual drive benefits shelters, veterans groups, churches and families in need.

After the Turkey Drop, City Team will spend the next 24 hours delivering about 10,000 turkeys. Last year, the team delivered about 9,000 turkeys.

“I usually never estimate, I just pray,” DeBella said.

Some recipients will get fresh or frozen birds to cook themselves. Others will receive pre-cooked gobblers.

Decades ago, a newspaper ad, which read “$10 will buy meals for five people,” caught DeBella’s attention. He asked listeners to collect turkeys for the needy – first 100, then 500 the next year, and so on.

“I understand the drive to beat yesterday’s numbers, but it’s more than a feeling when you understand that over 25 percent of this city lives below the poverty line,” said DeBella.

In the summer, DeBella also hosts a Radiothon – now in its eighth year – which benefits the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service Center. This year, the fundraiser yielded $144,173; one of this year’s biggest contributors was Rod Stewart, who donated $10,000 to the cause. In its eight years, the event has raised nearly $650,000.

This week, DeBella will personally drop off more than 25 turkeys at the N. 4th Street Vets center.

“Even if you hate war, it’s about loving and caring for the warrior,” said DeBella.

DeBella said turkey donations are down this year, but is remaining optimistic.

“But there’s a funny thing that happens on the day of the event – people with the least always give the most.”

Other than DeBella

​DeBella is not the only game in town helping the less fortunate during Thanksgiving. “I just have the loudest megaphone.” He knows not everyone can get to City Team or places where the Turkey Drop hit and suggests going to church groups, firehouses, union halls and civic centers. “If they can’t help, they know who can.”

Here are suggestions.

Thanksgiving Day with The African Daughters of Fine Lineage with meals to the homeless served Nov 27, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Municipal Services Building at 16th & JFK Boulevard

Church of the Advocate (1801 Diamond St) provides Thanksgiving meals to less fortunate families. They serve food Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

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