Community leaders use turkey giveaway to begin mentor program



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Hundreds of people who showed up in Pine Hills for a turkey giveaway got more than just a Thanksgiving meal Wednesday.

The Soirée Event & Conference Center opened in 2011 and since then, the owners have been looking for ways to help the community.

"I believe Pine Hills could be a community like Windemere, like Dr. Phillips, if we get the right people involved," said event center owner Nadia Khublal.

Lorraine Warden got the first turkey given out Wednesday.

"There's people here we talked to in line that have been out of work six, seven months. This is something their family will be able to enjoy," said Warden.

Before anyone got to pick up a turkey, they had to check in with volunteers who collected information from each family. The information will be used later to match children with mentors.

"It's a great idea. There's a lot of children not being raised by their mother and father ... they're raised by grandmothers or extended family members, and because of the economy, they're working two jobs. They don't have time for the children," said mother Anika Oliver.

The mentoring is part of a renewed effort following the high-profile shooting of Danielle Sampson, 15, who was caught in the middle of a shootout as she rode in her family's van through Pine Hills.

Community leaders said they're convinced mentoring programs prevent crimes like the one that left Danielle in a coma.

"Everybody can't afford to do things like give out turkeys … but time! If you have time to volunteer and give back, that could change someone's life," said Khublal.

Organizers gave out 400 turkeys, but they said their efforts to recruit mentors for the community will continue beyond the event held Wednesday.