Toyota of Killeen Thanks Troops with Turkey

by Dan Nied
Nov/Dec 2014

Fowl Play
This pair of soldiers had no problem mugging for the camera last year’s Turkey for the Troops at Toyota of Killeen.

Killeen, Texas, is a military town. There’s no doubt about that.

As the home of Fort Hood, more than 54,000 of Killeen’s 127,000 residents are employed by one of the country’s largest military bases.

Paula Lohse wanted to show her appreciation for those local troops. And that’s how Toyota of Killeen’s Turkeys for the Troops event came to be last November.

At 5:30 a.m., on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, cars lined up around the dealership despite sleet and below-freezing temperatures, all for an event that didn’t begin until 10 a.m.

And to think, Lohse, Toyota of Killeen’s dealer principal, arrived nervously. Before she saw the line, she was worried no one would show up.

Lohse and her staff went to work. The original plan was to hand out 2,000 turkeys. By the end of the event the next day, the number was around 3,000. And each soldier who received a turkey also received the dealership’s words of support: “From Toyota of Killeen to you, we want to express our appreciation for the sacrifices you made for us.”

Giving away Thanksgiving turkeys? It’s a simple gesture, really. But it made a difference for thousands.

“We have seen our troops being deployed and coming back and forth for years,” Lohse says. “It’s been very hard on the families that wait for them. So we wanted to do something public to give other people ideas of what they could do for military families.”

The new tradition continues this Thanksgiving, when Toyota of Killeen plans to hand out 2,000 more turkeys to Fort Hood troops.

This time, though, they’ll have to do it at a local church due to Image USA II renovations at the dealership.

Not only is Turkeys for the Troops a generous event, there’s the added bonus of generating word of mouth for the dealership in a town where the average resident may only stay a few years before transferring to another base or facing deployment.

“We constantly need to tell our story about why Toyota of Killeen is different,” Lohse says. “We have a challenge with the revolving door, and we hope Turkeys for the Troops leads people to tell others about us. I hope they feel like there’s a company out there that’s not just a name. It’s made up of people who care about them.”

Ultimately though, Lohse’s real reason for hosting the event is to show the gratitude she and her employees feel about the military.

“Really, it was just our way of saying thank you to the soldiers and the sacrifices they make,” she says.

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