Tracy Lawrence Puts on Chef’s Hat to Help the Homeless
The smell of 400 turkeys cooking in ultra hot oil just off Lafayette Street near downtown Nashville is overwhelming to those who drive by the area the day before Thanksgiving, causing mouths to water and minds to wonder what is going on. Those who come to Nashville's Union Rescue Mission on a regular basis know exactly what it is: Tracy Lawrence's annual "Mission Possible" Turkey Fry for the men and women who find help and relief at Nashville's downtown mission.
"We cooked about 350 to 400 turkeys today," an exhausted Tracy told The Boot as he rested for a few minutes on his bus toward the end of the event. "The kitchen at the mission cooked 150 inside in their ovens, so they will have enough turkeys for Thanksgiving Day."
On Tuesday, Titans players Jordan Babineaux, Rob Bironas and Daniel Graham donated 100 turkeys to Tracy to help kick off his event. Those turkeys will help feed an estimated 1,327 people.
This was the sixth annual event for the singer, who always brings in some of his music buddies, as well as some of Nashville's prominent sports figures. While the event is usually held on Tuesday before Thanksgiving, it had to be moved to Wednesday this year because of inclement weather. Because of that, a few of the scheduled celebrities were unable to attend. On hand to help Tracy fry a few birds were several members of the U.S. Coast Goard, plus Keith Anderson, Buddy Jewel, Jesse Whitley, all the members of Restless Heart, The McClymonts, Eric Lee Beddingfield and the Titan football team cheerleaders.
"I feel very fortunate to be doing what I do," Tracy reflects. "Several years ago, very early in my career, I could have been right here (gestures to mission building). I am deeply appreciative for what I have and I wanted to be able to do something in Nashville. This city is very special to me, and I wanted to give something back to the people in this city."
The first annual event was a little less organized that it is now, Tracy admits with a smile. "We tried to think it all through, but today we have it down so much better. We take the uncooked turkeys in one way and the cooked turkeys out the other end of the cooking area. We make sure each pit boss is in charge of his area and keep the entire area clean. It is pretty amazing to see how involved it is to get it organized and how smooth it works today."
The event is held in the parking lot of the Nashville Rescue Mission. The turkeys that were prepared by the volunteers will serve 7,000 meals during the holiday season. Since the first turkey fry, Tracy and his friends have donated more than 5,000 turkeys, serving almost 35,000 meals and raising more than $100,000 for the Nashville Rescue Mission.
"It is a great event and I love it," Tracy says. "It is very fulfilling to see the generosity and giving spirit of the people who come and stay all day, working and frying turkeys. It's a lot different than writing a check or performing a concert. Here you are giving of yourself."
Tracy's day began at 6:00 AM in front of the fryers and the last turkey came out of the oil around 2:00 PM. After that, Tracy delivered food to Wilson County, working with the Brooks House Shelter for Single Mothers and several other organizations in the county. He finally made it home around 5:30 PM, tired but thrilled that he was able to bring together the right team to help so many people enjoy their Thanksgiving Day.
Sponsorship partners include Kroger, Blue Rhino – Propane, Back Yard Burgers, Ink on Paper, 4 Season Coaches, Lowes, and Richards and Southern.