When the Rev. Rick White stood up to give his sermon two weeks ago, he hadn't planned to put out a call for 1,000 frozen turkeys.

But as he shared news with his St. Paul congregation about the 1,000 sandwiches for homeless folks made by his church youth group, he was moved to issue a challenge.

"If they can give away 1,000 sandwiches, we can give away 1,000 turkeys,'' said White, of Gethsemane Lutheran Church.

Problem is, there are only about 300 families in this church. So White is asking his congregation and supporters to buy an extra frozen turkey every time they buy one for themselves during this holiday season.

If all goes as planned, there will be 1,000 frozen birds nesting in his church parking lot Dec. 15, when they will be handed out to anyone who needs one.

"How many we'll actually have, I don't know,'' said White, who still gets a kick out of the challenge that just popped out of his mouth. "We had 100 [turkeys] promised the first week. And we got a pledge for $1,000 [to buy turkeys.]''

The logistics of giving away a flock of frozen turkeys now is on White's mind. Because the birds need to remain frozen, he's asking folks to keep them in their freezers until donation day -- or buy them later.

Several people already have donated freezers to the church for the random birds that have no home. But the church doesn't want to encourage that.

White said he was thinking about the low-income families in his East Side neighborhood when he asked for the donations. Fighting hunger is a major social goal at Gethsemane, he said. The giveaway allows families to have a holiday dinner just like everyone else, no questions asked.

"You show up, we'll give you a turkey,'' he said.

While the idea is simple, the traffic around the church on giveaway day could be wild, said White. "It's going to be a bit nuts.''

If you want to donate, call 651-739-1264 or go to www.geth.org.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511