Fresno charities worried: Pantries sparse on Thanksgiving week

Catholic Church of Visalia, in contrast, has enough to handle demand

The Fresno BeeNovember 25, 2013 

Fresno charities are staring at sparse pantries in the hours before Thanksgiving.

"I'm definitely worried," said Kathryn Weakland, development director for Poverello House. "It's not looking good. Last year, we were at about 1,000 turkeys by now; this year we're at just over 400 turkeys."

Other Fresno charities are facing similar situations as the need grows while food and money donations decline.

The Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Fresno is short on food and cash donations, while Community Food Bank hopes to receive more cash.

"There's a bit of anxiety around these times, but we just hope and pray that God will continue to help us," said Kelly Lilles, executive director at Catholic Charities. Last year, the charity sent out an appeal to about 5,000 donors and netted $65,000, Lilles said. This year, the sum dropped to $35,000.

"It's not over yet," she said. "We would love to have the community's support."

Fresno's Community Food Bank has seen an increase in demand in these challenging times, "a bit more than expected," CEO Andy Souza said. "We're concerned, cash is a bit slower than last year."

This year, the food bank will prepare 11,000 Thanksgiving meal boxes, Souza said. But, he added, the pantry has requests for more than 26,000 meal boxes.

Community Food Bank provides more than 26 million pounds of food each year to families at distribution events in towns throughout Fresno, Madera and Kings counties. Souza said the food bank can turn a $10 donation into enough food to feed a family of four for a week.

Even though officials are concerned, they said there always is hope.

"Yes, I'm worried, but we've always muddled through," Weakland said.

The Poverello House expects to prepare 120 turkeys to feed about 1,000 homeless people on Thanksgiving Day. Weakland said the situation looks OK for Thanksgiving Day but "donations are not just for this week, it's for the entire 2014 year." The charity hopes to reach its goal of receiving 2,500 turkeys by Jan. 1.

"Our kitchen director uses turkey meat throughout the year," she said. "It is a very versatile meat allowing us to even use the bone to make soup stock."

Weakland said the organization and others around the central San Joaquin Valley are doing everything they can to make the most of each donation. Besides food, cash donations always are welcomed because they allow charities to be flexible.

"They carry us not only through the holidays, but also into 2014," said the Rev. Larry Arce, CEO of the Fresno Rescue Mission.

It's a much brighter picture in Visalia, where the Catholic Church of Visalia reports having enough turkeys, volunteers and food donations to meet its Thanksgiving needs.

"We're in pretty good shape," said Rev. Henry Medina, director of administration. "We've already been reaching out to give turkeys that we're not going to use."

The church will prepare 100 turkeys feeding 250 people for Thanksgiving dinner, and perhaps leftovers.

"We're doing fairly well," he said. "It's better to have this problem than the opposite."

  Thanksgiving dinners around the Valley

Wednesday

Roeding Park: 3:30-6:30 p.m. for homeless at the Umbrella Grove, 894 W. Belmont Ave., (559) 241-0271, hosted by Fresno/Calwa Community Outreach Services/The Bread of Life. Volunteers welcome. Food and paper products are needed.

Thanksgiving Day

Clovis: noon, Clovis Senior Center, 805 Fourth St., (559) 324-2750. Meals will be delivered to the homes of Clovis residents who are frail or disabled and unable to attend the event.

Lemoore: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 13th annual Community Dinner, Lemoore Senior Center, 789 18th Ave., thanksgivingcommunitydinner.org; to volunteer and donate, contact Margaret Lohry at (559) 585-1034, jlohry123@aol.com or Walt Kendall at (559) 924-1484; for home delivery (limit four meals), call (559) 633-0666 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, daguilera@fresnobee.com or @DianaT_Aguilera on Twitter.

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