With Thanksgiving just days away, Fresno charities and food banks are looking for last-minute donations of turkeys, cash and everything in between. But so far, donations are coming up short compared to last year.
Catholic Charities Diocese of Fresno – which serves 150 families a day – has so far raised $40,000 in cash donations for the holidays, down from $65,000 this time last year.
“We’re down $25,000. That’s a big deal,” executive director Kelly Lilles said Monday. “And we still have to get through Christmas.”
Catholic Charities is hosting a turkey drive Tuesday in television station KSEE 24’s parking lot, 5035 E. McKinley Ave, with a goal of collecting at least 1,200 turkeys. Each year, the organization hands out free turkeys on Thanksgiving eve, with no questions asked. Last year, nearly 900 Fresno families lined up to get a free bird.
Anyone who wants a free turkey can receive one, but they will need to show up at the organization’s Fulton Street location early Wednesday morning.
“It’s first come, first serve. Some people show up to wait in line starting at 3 a.m.,” Lilles said.
We’re way below our goal.
Pedro Santana, Poverello House
Cash donations at Tuesday’s turkey drive also are encouraged. Lilles says the organization gets more bang for the buck with cash donations because it receives discounts on food purchases that the average shopper doesn’t.
“All the money we raise stays here in Fresno, and 90 cents of every dollar goes directly back to our programs. That’s almost unheard of,” she said.
The Poverello House, which provides three free meals a day to Fresnans year-round, also is seeing fewer donations this year.
The organization – which also provides shelter and a slew of other services – has collected about 700 turkeys in its Thanksgiving food drive that started Nov. 1 and goes through Thursday. This time last year, the Poverello House had received more than 1,000 turkeys, according to Pedro Santana, director of fund development.
“We’re way below our goal,” Santana said Monday. The Poverello House had hoped to receive 2,500 turkeys this year.
Santana said the decrease in donations doesn’t come as a surprise, though, pointing out that the Poverello House has seen an increase in families in need in recent months.
I understand the power of neighbors helping neighbors by donating.
Fresno State President Joseph Castro
“We’re trying to wrap our heads around it … I’m not sure if the drought still continues to affect our economy or what,” he said. “Before, we saw a lot of homeless individuals. Now, we’re actually seeing families of four and five coming to our door.”
Santana said the Poverello House also is in need of cash donations and “warm kits” for the winter: sweaters, jackets, blankets, etc.
On Monday, Fresno State President Joseph Castro helped boost a holiday drive for the Community Food Bank, which provides food to more than 200 agencies in Fresno, Madera, Kings, Kern and Tulare counties.
Castro made a donation at the Save Mart supermarket on Champlain Drive, encouraging others to get involved in Save Mart’s “Give, Share, Care” drive, which allows shoppers to give to local food banks.
According to the Community Food Bank, $1 donated can provide food for seven meals. Community Food Bank has 16 local Save Mart stores and 11 FoodMaxx stores collecting donations for it.
Castro and his wife have been involved in similar efforts on campus. They opened the Student Cupboard in 2014, a free food pantry for students that has received nearly 50,000 visits since it began.
“Many of our students say there are times when they do not know where the next meal will come from. I know that is the case with children in public schools as well, and with families throughout our community,” Castro said Monday.
Castro experienced food insecurity growing up in a single-parent home in Hanford. “I understand the power of neighbors helping neighbors by donating.”
Where to give for Thanksgiving:
▪ Catholic Charities Diocese of Fresno: 149 N. Fulton St. / 559-237-0851
▪ Poverello House: 412 F St. / 559-498-6988
▪ Community Food Bank: 3403 E. Central Ave. / 559-237-3663
▪ Fresno State Student Cupboard: 2255 E. Barstow, Room 144 in the Industrial Technology building / 559-278-6621