As the Visalia Breakfast Lions Club prepares to donate more than 700 turkeys for area Thanksgiving food distributions, Past President Kelly Robinson said that number just scratches the surface.
Most members take the Tuesday off before Thanksgiving to help deliver turkeys.
“You have to see there’s a lot more people in need than what we’re doing,” he said.
In Tulare, at least 400 turkeys are needed at the Salvation Army for low-income families from Tulare, Alpaugh and Allensworth. This number includes both unemployed and working poor families who have been affected by the drought and other situations, said Capt. Maggie Laubach.
“There [are] always people in need,” she said. “If every family purchased a little bit more as they purchased for their own meal, it could make a great difference for somebody in need.”
More than 1,600 turkeys are still needed at the Visalia Emergency Aid Council, Bethlehem Center and the Salvation Army in Visalia.
The Visalia Emergency Aid needs up to 1,000 turkeys to distribute to needy families and so far, the nonprofit has no turkeys in its freezer. Thanks to the Turkey Transit Singers, a dedicated group of balladeers and musicians, $5,000 has already been pledged by Visalia businesses and organizations for the VEAC turkey drive.
That will purchase about 250 turkeys but up to 750 more are needed, said Liz Wynn, executive director.
The Turkey Transit Singers hit the road Nov. 24-25 to perform for donations.
The list of recipient families at the VEAC come from Crowley, Highland and Houston elementary schools in Visalia and from Family HealthCare Network in Ivanhoe and Goshen. Donations from FoodLink for Tulare County and Community Food Bank in Fresno help round out the distribution with produce and nonperishable food items, she said.
Also, the Pirates of Hope collected more than 5,000 pounds of nonperishable food for the VEAC’s holiday distribution.
At Bethlehem Center, 250 turkeys will be given out, said Benny Rodriguez, director. So far, 100 turkeys have been pledged by the Breakfast Lions and 25 from Post 785 of the American Legion.
About 125 more turkeys are needed. For individuals or couples, chickens will be given out instead of turkeys, he said.
Last year, Rodriguez recalls that he was short 87 turkeys at the last minute. Then a man called to say he had 100 turkeys he would like to donate. He and a friend had gotten together to collect and distribute turkeys at the last minute.
“Thank you, Lord,” Rodriguez remembers saying. “He always comes through.”
The Salvation Army in Visalia is still collecting names of recipient families. So far, 440 families are signed up and she expects that number to grow to more than 500 by the end of Thursday.
They include seniors as well as low-income families, those who are unemployed, receiving cash aid or on food stamps, said Cpt. Viviana Viquez.
So far, two groups have pledged turkeys to the Salvation Army in Visalia: Eagle Mountain Casino has pledged 200 turkeys and the Breakfast Lions will go there last and give them all the turkeys they have left, Robinson said. Last year, the Lions gave 176 turkeys to the Salvation Army.
“I’ve got a running list that grows each year,” he said.
The Breakfast Lions Club donates turkeys to the Bethlehem Center, Visalia Salvation Army, Grace Homes, the Army National Guard, Tulare Christian School, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Family Builders Foster Care, Tulare County Rehabilitation, Blind Babies Foundation, Central Valley Regional Center, Kaweah Delta Hospice and Family Services.
“Turns out that a lot of these places were so thankful they were not forgotten,” he said. “It is truly rewarding to us that people give us the opportunity to help.”