Alan Cockerham’s restaurant, The Poke Company, is packed with frozen turkeys and enough food to feed 40 families.
WELLINGTON — When Alan Cockerham heard there were families in the western communities who need help getting Thanksgiving dinners, his next step was a no-brainer.
The 32-year-old Lake Worth resident and owner of The Poke Company in Wellington jumped at the chance to launch his first food drive, something he’s wanted to do since he volunteered as a young man with an organization that feeds homeless people.
“Through that it just kind of facilitated my awareness that this is a need, not even just at the homeless level but at the community level,” he said.
Those needs only increase this time of year, said Cockerham, who grew up in the Keys.
“So I figured now with owning a restaurant, it provided me an opportunity to have a vehicle to provide meals to those in need over the holidays,” he said.
Cockerham partnered with Aimee Stern, a Wellington resident and founder of the popular Facebook group Mom’s Club of Wellington FL (PBC & Florida), which has 6,850 members.
While this is Cockerham’s first foray into food collection, Stern has been organizing food and toy drives in the community for several years. While helping Cockerham gather turkeys and sides for holiday dinners, she also has a growing list of about 170 children who need toys. (To donate or to add your children’s name to her list, call 561-504-1814.)
The pair designed the process so it is not “embarrassing or humbling” for those who have asked for help, Stern said.
Those who have reached out to her to sign up for Thanksgiving meals have their names on a list. They will go to The Poke Company in Wellington this weekend and walk up to the counter, like they are picking up a to-go order.
The staff at the restaurant will grab a bag filled with sides and a tin pan, then take a turkey from the restaurant’s freezer.
The entire exchange would take just a couple of minutes, Stern said.
“They don’t have to feel uncomfortable,” she said. “It’s hard enough this time of year if you don’t have, and have to ask for help.”
The food drive has brought so many turkeys into Cockerham’s restaurant that he had to buy an extra freezer, for which he paid about $200, he said.
“It’ll still get put to good use after this,” he said, laughing.
While it holds 17 turkeys, that still wasn’t enough space. So turkeys have been stuffed in other icy places in his back room.
Basically, anywhere there can be a turkey, there is.
Once the Thanksgiving dinners are distributed, Cockerham plans to take a week off and then begin collecting food for more dinners to last through the holidays. Donations can be dropped off on a table inside the restaurant’s door, and donors will receive 10 percent off their purchase at The Poke Company.
Now, the table is full of Thanksgiving dinner fixings.
“And then that table will be open again ready to be filled,” he said.