BRIDGEPORT — Cold, windy conditions didn’t deter hundreds of Bridgeport residents from gathering at St. Charles Church, off East Main Street, on Tuesday morning to receive free turkeys and Thanksgiving meals handed out by Sacred Heart University students.

One resident, Melissa Diaz, who grew up a parishioner at the church, said the turkey she had just received was the last piece of the Thanksgiving meal she was preparing for her family.

“I’m bringing my whole family together and cooking up a whole feast. I’ve got everything prepared, and now I’ve got the turkey,” said Diaz, as a Sacred Heart student loaded up her car.

Diaz and her family were one of more than 4,000 families in Bridgeport that Sacred Heart hoped to serve in their seventh annual Thanksgiving drive. More than $12,000 were raised to purchase 700 turkeys distributed throughout the community, along with non-perishables.

The drive was organized in part by the university’s Department of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning and the Student Government.

“It was a huge collaboration across campus,” said Annie Wendel, assistant director of Volunteer Programs and Service Learning.

According to Junior class President Sarah Kosha, the student government launched a social media campaign to raise awareness and held fundraisers at local restaurants. At last week’s women’s basketball game, there was a pre-game reception to raise money to purchase turkeys.

More than 70 student volunteers from the Student Government, with additional students from several Sacred Heart athletic teams, including basketball and lacrosse, also showing up to pitch in. At Blessed Sacrament Church, also in Bridgeport, an additional 30 Student Government volunteers were handing out turkeys.

In total, Senior class President Samantha Pignatelli said more than $12,000 had been raised since September, surpassing totals from last year and eclipsing the students’ goal.

“When people hear 700 turkeys they don’t realize it costs $9,000 to buy them,” Pignatelli said. “It was a long road. But it’s a good turnout.”

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1