NEWTON – Even though his “home” motorcycle club has ceased to exist, Wally Waltsak followed through on his decades-old tradition of providing Thanksgiving turkeys to those less fortunate.
On Sunday, with help from a new Harley Davidson club, 70 frozen turkeys were delivered to Saint Joseph Church on Halstead Street and, Waltsak said, another 34 to a food pantry at Camp Auxilium in Hampton.
For about two decades, Waltsak had worked with Chapter 22 Harley Owners Group (HOG), sponsored by Tramontin Motorcycles in Hope to deliver turkeys to the Halstead church group’s food pantry.
However, the motorcycle business, located just off Interstate 80, closed its doors and, Waltsak said, the chapter folded. He then approached the next nearest club, affiliated with Garden State Harley Davidson, a dealership located in Morris Plains.
He had more than 104 frozen turkeys and could they help, he said.
Karen Austin, chair of that group, said “We saw it as a great way to open our arms a little wider.”
Her chapter was already involved in raising money and providing help to Hogan Home, a women’s shelter in Oxford, as well as Lakeland Association of Churches, through their Harley Harvest Drive.
Lakeland is a grouping of churches on both sides of Lake Hopatcong and “What Wally was doing, dovetailed nicely.”
Traditionally, the motorcyclists would show up at Saint Joseph on their Harleys with a few pickups carrying the turkeys which Waltack had arranged to purchase through a grocery chain nearly at cost.
This year, he had raised $1,695 to buy the 104, 10-12 pound turkeys. As an aside, last year, the Northwest Jersey HOG delivered 139 turkeys to the church.
But with the rain, there was no caravan of motorcycles, Austin said. “There was a big, long line of pickup trucks waiting to deliver (the turkeys).”
The Rev. ST Sutton, and Christine Shell, director of St. Mother Teresa Food Pantry, stood ready to receive the stacks of frozen birds, packed four to five to a case.
In a hallway nearby were the 100 bags of groceries which will accompany the turkeys. Shell said the church also purchased 40 whole chickens for recipients whose family group is not large enough to eat a whole turkey.
Snell said the food pantry began online “and now we have our own little grocery store.”
At the facility, people “can shop like in a grocery store, picking out what they need. “We have 300 registered families.”
She noted the program has few restrictions on who can register. “If they feel they need help, we help them,” she explained.
The pantry program is fully supported by the parishioners of Saint Joseph, she said. Information about the pantry and the gift shop is available at the church’s website: stjosephnewton.org
Waltsack began his Thanksgiving tradition more than 40 years ago when he lived in the Red Bank area.
“I felt I had a lot of heat and a lot of food and wanted to help someone,” he said. “So that first year, I gave a turkey to the church and told them to give it to someone who needed it.”
In subsequent years, he began making monetary donations “telling the pastor to buy as many as they could afford.”