For the last 20 years, City of Turlock employees have been funding and participating in what they call the Turlock Community Charities Shopping Tour.
Audrey Cray, administrative assistant for City of Turlock, explained that when they first started this event, they served about 20 to 30 kids but since the recession they have had an increase of kids in need to over 200.
Thankfully, their donations have increased along with the need.
“From donations, people’s kindness and generosity, we’ve raised roughly $15,000 for about 200 children,” Cray said. “We stretch the dollars as far we can rather than turning a child away; we know that anything can help.”
City employees, along with community volunteers, take the kids to the Turlock Walmart to shop for clothes, toys and anything else they may need.
The generosity continues at the Walmart McDonald's, as each child is given a free Happy Meal and a food box to take home to their family, said McDonald's supervisor Mercedes Estrella.
The food box includes everything needed for a holiday meal — turkey and canned vegetables, but also hot chocolate, oatmeal, small presents, coloring books—anything and everything, Estrella said.
The holiday spirit is evident throughout the days-long shopping event, but made even more so with a visit from the Turlock Police Department's Blue Santa. This Santa, along with providing toys and other donating items, offers safety tips as well.
“They do a lot in the community to help bring communication with the public and the police department in such a positive manner,” said Cray. “They do an excellent job of bridging the gap of different views of public safety and we are so happy they are a part of this.”
The shopping tour is split up into two days, in two shifts, in order to successfully take the 222 anticipated children shopping this year. The children selected are submitted by the City’s recreation employees who work with them on a daily basis.
“Our recreation employees know the kids' lifestyles, know their stories and know who is in need,” Cray said. “We are happy with the success of choosing the kids and families and they are always so thankful and overwhelmed with gratitude.”
Cray is also thankful for the contributions from Oak Valley Community Bank and Westamerica Bank that contribute financially and as volunteers for the shopping nights each year.
This year’s event will be held Wednesday and Thursday with two shifts at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Cray said they could always use more volunteers.
“The more people the better,” she said. “That way there is a better ratio of our volunteers to kids shopping.”
“We’re all just trying to do our part and give back,” Estrella said. “That’s what it’s all about — we want to do our part and put a smile on people’s faces.”
To get involved with this year’s Turlock Community Charities Shopping Tour, contact Cray at 668-5436 or email her at ACray@turlock.ca.us.