Despite the foggy, cold weather on Saturday morning, Turlock Together volunteers came out in force to make the charity organization’s first-ever drive-thru event a success.
In October, Turlock Salvation Army Captain Katie Breazeale was worried that the event would see fewer donations and not enough volunteers due to COVID-19. Instead, the group of ministries, businesses, churches, service clubs and community workers known for its iconic blue barrels received more than enough aid to make sure 875 local families have food and toys this holiday season.
On Saturday, families in their vehicles lined up at the Turlock Fruit Co., where volunteers packed their trunks with food boxes and toys for each child. Turlock Together saw a decrease in participating families this year, Breazeale said, noting that the event served almost double the number of families last year.
“There was a big difference,” she said. “We thought the need would be more, but some people mentioned that they didn’t think we were doing it this year due to COVID.”
There were fewer volunteers at distribution this day as well, with 75 community members helping out as opposed to close to 200 in 2019. This wasn’t a problem, however, as the event’s drive-thru layout meant less help was needed. The line went smoothly all day, with some breaks and lulls in the action due to volunteers’ proficiency in delivering goods to cars.
“We had enough volunteers and they were wonderful, stepping in wherever we needed to,” Breazeale said.
Dutcher Middle School sixth graders Grace Nass and Gretchen Nass volunteered their time on Friday, the night before distribution day, in order to help pack boxes with food. While the assembly-line for packing boxes at Turlock Fruit Co. looked similar to years prior, volunteers made sure to wear their masks and keep their distance while organizing the perishable and non-perishable food items.
“It’s been a hard year for a lot of people, so it feels really good when you know you’re doing something for the community that will help people who can’t afford to really get a lot of things this year,” Grace Nass said.
“I really liked volunteering and want to do it again next year,” Gretchen Nass added. “I love helping our community when the community doesn’t have the resources they need.”
Seeing the community’s willingness to volunteer for a good cause, as well as donate to one, made Breazeale’s first holiday season as Captain in Turlock a joyous event, she said, even in the face of a global pandemic. In addition to families fed, toy donations from the community provided 750 children from 350 families with a toy to play with on Christmas.
“We wanted to still be out here and show the community that we’re still here helping and supporting those in need,” Breazeale said. “We were able to get the volunteers we needed, the donations we needed, and so far so good this holiday season.”
The Salvation Army’s season of giving will continue on Friday, Christmas Day, with its annual Christmas meal. Those in need of a meal can attend the drive-thru event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday at The Salvation Army, 893 Lander Ave. in Turlock. Those interested in volunteering to help serve and deliver food to cars can contact The Salvation Army at 209-669-5366.