Watching as the historic Douglas DC-3 airplane was unloaded with bags of food and boxes of frozen turkeys, Pete Hecht considered the plane’s past and its present.
It’s a stretch, he said, but just as the World War II-era aircraft dropped supplies during the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940s, the plane was helping a community in need.
“The airplane resupplies again,” this time for the people of Immokalee, the 75-year-old Hecht said.
Volunteers and community members of Immokalee came together Saturday at the Immokalee Regional Airport to hand out 250 meals to about 250 families for the third annual Turkeys Take Flight event. The Redlands Christian Migrant Association picked families who qualified to receive the free meal. The meals came from Ft. Lauderdale, where the Rotary Club helped raise funds with Velvet Creme, a doughnut and coffee company.
The historic aircraft, which was donated for the event, was given a water salute by the Immokalee Fire Department on arrival. The firefighters also helped unload the food, as volunteers and some of the children formed a line to drop off the bags of food.
“This is a permanent mission for us,” said Robert Taylor, owner of Velvet Creme. With the help of the Rotary Club of Ft. Lauderdale Florida Air Cargos and volunteers, Taylor said they were able to supply families with a meal that could feed up to 15 people.
For Araceli Ramirez, the bag of food is a bag of blessings.
“It’s a big help. I’m happy, so happy,” she said with a smile. She has two daughters in the program, which provides early education for children of migrant farm works and other rural, low-income families.
She watched as one of her daughter’s played with the other kids around the airport under a cloudy sky. Ramirez’s smile grew.
She said she volunteers for the association at events because it helps set an example for her kids. She added that she knows everyone at the RCMA, and she likes to be involved because she appreciates the help.
“(The food) is already here. I just have to prepare it,” she said with a laugh.
The kids munched on doughnuts and spent time with George Henry, Brenda Stelzer’s puppet. Stelzer was at the event last year, when the plane broke down en route to Immokalee.
She was able to keep the kids entertained with her puppets then. She said she brought him along again because the kids love it.
Six-year-old Clarissa Cintron was fascinated by George Henry, giggling as she played with one of his puppet hands.
“I want one so I can do shows,” the first grader said.
Taylor said the event has been growing every year, both in size and with help. The DC-3 has the event logo, depicting a turkey in flight with flying gear on. Taylor said the airport also gave him a deal, and will allow him to display the stamp on one of the cargo hangars.
“The more it gets out there, the more we’ll be able to do for the community,” he said.