Heading into holiday weeks, the Community Food Bank for San Benito County often has lines that are a bit longer than normal.
“It’s a big deal having a big dinner and having family over, if they are barely getting by,” said Mary Anne Hughes, the executive director for the food bank. “Thanksgiving doesn’t seem like much if you are having tuna and noodles.”
The week before Thanksgiving, Hughes said volunteers and staff members would be handing out whole chickens to the families because they had a limited supply of turkeys. They were accepting donations of turkeys through today and residents were offered the chance to be entered into a lottery for a turkey. Hughes said those who didn’t win the turkey lottery would still be able to take home a chicken.
To provide the trimmings for the Thanksgiving feast, Hughes said local schools have already started canned food drives.
“The schools have done a wonderful job,” she said, noting that the canned food drive will continue throughout the holiday season. “I don’t think it’s an issue until after the holidays – people are very generous right now.”
The Community Food Bank is especially in need of monetary donations because they did not receive a federal community development block grant this year and several other grants have been slow in coming in.
“I don’t see us getting enough to go through January, February and March,” she said. “I’m concerned about the coming year.”
With monetary donations, the Food Bank is able to purchase items in bulk, keeping the costs low to stock the goods that are distributed several times a week in Hollister and one day a week in San Juan Bautista. With a grant from the Health Trust, a pantry in San Juan is open from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays. The San Juan location inspired a new way to do distribution at the Food Bank. Instead of volunteers prepacking bags for clients to pick up during distribution, clients walk through a line and select just the items they want to take home. Hughes referred to it as a “store” concept.
The pantry is still serving about 4,500 to 5,000 people a month. While the number of new clients has stabilized, Hughes said more of the families are coming every week for food.
“Families that used to come once or twice a month are now coming every week,” Hughes said.
The Community Food Bank for San Benito County is one of six local nonprofits that will benefit from the 12 Days of Giving, a fundraising effort sponsored by the Community Foundation for San Benito County and the United Way. The effort will launch at the Lights On Celebration Nov. 24 and continue through Dec. 8. Donations from community members will be matched, up to $20,000.
Hughes said she hoped the 12 Days of Giving, in addition to raising money for local nonprofits, would help to raise awareness of the services offered by the local nonprofits and that they are in need of ongoing support. The Community Food Bank for San Benito County will be sending out a flier to local residents, with design time donated by Design Line Granger Printing, to further inform residents about the Food Bank.
“It’s a good education process,” Hughes said. “None of the nonprofits are known as well as they should be.”
Holte Holiday dinner set for Thursday
Organizers of the annual Holte Holiday dinner are still seeking donations and volunteers to support the Thanksgiving feast on Nov. 22. The annual event was started by Marley Holte as a way to provide holiday meals to those who could not afford it or had no place to go for the holidays.
Larry Brown, who is helping to organize the yearly event, said the nonprofit is especially in need of monetary donations this year.
“Last year we served well over 400 people,” Brown said. “What we are going for this year is 300 people because we are way down on donations. People can donate turkeys – that’s fine – but if they donate money we can go out and buy the food in bulk.”
Brown said they are usually able to get more food for the same amount than individuals are able to get buying the items piecemeal.
Last year volunteers cooked and served up 27 turkeys for the meal. It will include all the fixings of a traditional Thanksgiving feast with turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing and dessert.
Volunteers are also needed to prepare, cook and serve food for the dinner. Volunteers are needed Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving to prep and cook food in the evening, and on Thanksgiving morning to finish cooking the food and to serve it to guests. The meal will be served Nov. 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Organizers also plan a Christmas Day meal.
Those interested in donating or signing up to volunteer may call Larry Brown at 637-9037.