Volunteers lifting spirits with Clovis giveaway

The Fresno BeeDecember 16, 2012 

A Clovis giveaway of groceries, toys and bicycles brightened the holidays for hundreds of local families on Sunday morning.

About 500 boxes packed with milk, canned vegetables, fruit and pasta were loaded into cars of families who were identified by churches, schools and organizations as needing a little extra help this season.

"It's a lot of fun," said Kellie Hustedde, a senior at Clovis High School who volunteered. "It's nice to help other families, especially during this time of year."

The Clovis Rotary Club and the Clovis Police Officers' Association organized the event, now in its 29th year, with help from the Salvation Army and other community agencies, schools and churches.

More than 13,000 items of food were collected at Clovis schools, donated by Valley food companies or bought at discounted prices for the giveaway, said John Willow, president of the police association.

Food donations were down this year compared to previous years, but the cash donations were up, which helped to balance out what was needed for the boxes, Willow said.

On Saturday, volunteers sorted through the food at the P-R Farms packing facility at Shepherd and Willow avenues.

Then on Sunday, volunteers returned to pack boxes and load them into the back of vehicles for families who quickly drove in and showed their vouchers.

Each family got at least one box of food, a two-pound bag of oranges and a frozen chicken. Those who came early picked up one of 70 bicycles refurbished by inmates from the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and the Corcoran State Prison. Clovis city employees also donated about 240 toys for children.

To be part of a community event like this where so many organizations and people donated their time and money for others "is special," said Dave Crosby, a police volunteer who helped for the first time.

It also was a happy and uplifting morning considering the last two days of solemn news from the Connecticut elementary school shooting that left 26 people -- mostly children -- dead, Crosby said as he teared up.

"There is amazing work going on here," Crosby said.

Check out Eric Paul Zamora's gallery of photos from Sunday's giveaway.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, blee@fresnobee.com or @bonhialee on Twitter.

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