While Thanksgiving for many means a day of gathering with family members over a large meal, for others it’s a day of service.
“I think the holiday naturally turns our hearts to be thankful and thoughtful about how blessed most of us are,” said Turlock Gospel Mission CEO Christian Curby.
For the past 10 years, the gospel mission has provided a meal on Thanksgiving day for the homeless, those struggling financially or those looking to gather with others on the holiday. Between 30 and 50 volunteers prepare and serve a meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, vegetables, stuffing, rolls and pie every year to a crowd of approximately 100.
The kitchen volunteers prepare a meal for 200, and then create leftover sack lunches to hand out to the guests. Volunteers set up a large dining area in the front patio of the Turlock mission, complete with heaters to keep out the chill.
“It’s all you can eat, a beautiful spread but also a great opportunity to connect with our guests. Everybody is pretty thankful to be there that day,” said Curby.
Along with the meal, the mission also sets up stations where guests can get free winter coats and hats and toys for the children.
“It’s an opportunity to touch the lives of others who at least at this Thanksgiving aren’t feeling as blessed,” said Curby.
Those wishing to volunteer this Thanksgiving can visit turlockgospelmission.org to fill out a volunteer application or call (209) 656-1033.
Thanksgiving is a very busy time at the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton/San Joaquin. The week before the holiday, workers and volunteers start boxing up food that will be distributed in a large-scale drive-through giveaway at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
“There are so many things to do,” said volunteer coordinator Fran O’Brien.
At least 50 volunteers are needed to prepare and distribute the food boxes to the approximately 2,000 individuals and families who will receive them.
“They are helping the needy in the community. It gives you a good feeling to be actually helping people in need,” she said.
For more information on volunteering to put together food boxes, or help direct traffic during distribution day, call O’Brien at (209) 464-7369.
Two days after the Thanksgiving food box giveaway is the food bank’s largest one-day fundraiser, the Walk Against Hunger. This year will mark the 19th year of the family event. In 2022, there were nearly 2,000 participants for the 5K run/walk and 10K run.
O’Brien said the food bank gives out over 400 boxes a day and the need is growing.
To register for the Walk Against Hunger, visit: www.runagainsthunger.org.