BROWNSVILLE, Texas – State Sen. Eddie Lucio says he plans to expand his popular turkey distribution program next Thanksgiving.

This year he and his team have distributed around 800 turkeys to nonprofits, church groups, homeless shelters, government housing projects, veterans organizations, and a couple of hospices, in the counties of Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy.

He was even able to send some turkeys to a tent village set up for Central American migrants stuck in Matamoros awaiting asylum to the United States.

Next year, his last as a state senator, Lucio plans to increase the number to 1,000, and reach an eight county area. “That is our goal,” he told Ron Whitlock Reports.

In a video interview, Lucio said the program started at the turn of the century when he gave out turkeys to a group of elderly ladies that would regularly visit his district office in Brownsville to ask for assistance.

“It all grew from there,” Lucio said. “It has become a tradition to give out turkeys the Monday before Thanksgiving. We call it Turkey Day.”

Lucio said giving out turkeys to those less fortunate can become emotional when he thinks back to his childhood days. Lucio said his parents could not afford a turkey and had to buy four or five chickens to feed a family of ten children at Thanksgiving.

“We would get four or five chickens because we could not afford a turkey. We were okay, we were happy. There was a lot of love flowing in our family.”

Lucio said he is particularly happy to give turkeys to the housing projects because he grew up in one.

This year, Lucio has been helped by a generous donor, allowing him to purchase more turkeys than normal. However, he said the donor does not wish to be named.

Brenda Watson recently retired after working almost 35 years for Sen. Lucio. Asked how the turkey giveaway program started, Watson said it came about through Lucio’s office regularly helping “some little elderly women that needed assistance.”

Watson said: “They would come by the office. They were regulars. They were very nice women but they were poor and they needed assistance. We would try to help them with food stamps and health and human services. We decided to get them a turkey for Thanksgiving. They became friends. We were happy to be able to help them.”

Asked what role Lucio’s former chief of staff Paul Cowen played in the turkey giveaway program, Watson said: “Paul was in the middle of things, as usual. The little old ladies loved him. He was real happy to help them. They were buddies. They loved Paul and Paul loved them. These women were hustling. They would do anything they could to survive. If that meant making tamales on the side to supplement their income, they were doing what they could. They did not want a handout. They wanted to work. They wanted to help themselves but we decided to help them too.”

Watson said Brownsville Early College High School helps with the distribution effort. She said students help as volunteers and in return the school gets five turkeys.

Watson said Sen. Lucio usually gives ten turkeys to the Buena Vida Housing Project but there are 20 to 25 women there that need help. She said they hold a raffle to see who gets a turkey. She said St. Thomas Church in Brownsville also raffles the turkeys the senator provides. “It is heartbreaking for us because we would love to be able to help everybody. We do what we can,” she said.

Asked about what happens to the turkey distribution program when Sen. Lucio retires at the end of next year, Watson said: “We hope to continue. There are people that depend on it.”

Listen: An audio interview with Brenda Watson:

Watch: State Sen. Eddie Lucio says his turkeys for Thanksgiving 2021 average about 16 pounds. (Video courtesy of Ron Whitlock Reports)

Watch: State Sen. Eddie Lucio says his parents could not afford a turkey when he was a child. Instead they had four or five turkeys. (Video courtesy of Ron Whitlock Reports)

Watch: State Sen. Eddie Lucio saves two dozen turkeys for a local a judge. (Video courtesy of Ron Whitlock Reports)

Watch: State Sen. Eddie Lucio says his turkeys go to groups that help the homeless and a couple of hospices. (Videos courtesy of Ron Whitlock Reports)

Watch: State Sen. Eddie Lucio says he likes giving turkeys to a local housing project because he grew up on one. (Video courtesy of Ron Whitlock Reports)

Watch: State Sen. Eddie Lucio recalls the day he knew he wanted to become a teacher. (Video courtesy of Ron Whitlock Reports)

Watch: State Sen. Eddie Lucio remembers the Piggly Wiggly store. It was the first big store he ever stepped into. (Video courtesy of Ron Whitlock Reports)

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