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The heart of Turlock
Community members step up to help neighbors during pandemic
Heart 2020 1
Turlocker Patricia Pearson hangs more of her handmade face coverings on a stand in her front yard for passersby to take for free in April.

The silver lining of the difficult times that overshadow the year 2020 was the spirit of giving that sprang forth from community members young and old who did their best to make difficult times just a little bit easier for their neighbors.

Turlock residents have always been known for their generosity, but the overwhelming impacts of the coronavirus pandemic spurred many to share their time, talents and resources in meaningful ways from church groups shopping for shut-ins to a senior citizen knitting hats and blankets for newborn babies.

Below are a few of the ordinary citizens who made extraordinary efforts to help others in 2020:

— New Life Christian Center’s high school ministry group, comprised of junior and senior students Brooke Rose, Emma Borrelli, Lilly Leonard, Grace Gonzales, Kayla Reese and Bella Pace, took it upon themselves to go grocery shopping for the elderly and others who may not be able to make it to the store due to the impact of COVID-19.

“It's an amazing experience. I'm glad I've had this opportunity to help those who are at risk,” Borrelli said in March. “It warms my heart seeing the joy on their faces from such a small deed. I wouldn't want to spend my time doing anything else."

— In April, Turlock resident Patricia Pearson set up a tomato cage as a mask tree staked in her front lawn on North Thor Street and then stocked it with free handmade masks for anyone to take for free.

“Everybody just really poured their hearts out into how grateful they were and encouraged me to keep doing it. Then they started leaving donations on my porch, so I was able to order more fabric and keep going up until now,” Pearson said. “We’re all humans and we’re all in this together. It honestly made me cry the first time somebody left a donation on the porch and a little note with some fabric.

“It just warms my heart to know that there’s other people like me in Turlock and I made the right decision moving my family here.”

— Turlockers put their money to get use over the past year, with many making significant donations to local nonprofits in desperate need to help feed the rising number of out-of-work families in the city. In May, Dr. Ram and Swarana Saini donated the $2,400 they received from the federal government through the stimulus checks to the United Samaritans Foundation and while they were there, took the opportunity to learn more about what the nonprofit is all about — and make a few sandwiches for the organization’s lunch program.

“We should do everything in this hard time that we can. A lot of people don’t have jobs and seniors don’t have enough food,” said Dr. Saini in May.

Heart 2020 2
Rebekah (8) and Lillianah (5) Whitcanack collect funds for “homeless people” at a booth in front of their Turlock home (Photo contributed).

The day after the Sainis visited USF, the organization was once again the recipient of a surprise donation, this time from two Turlock sisters.

Rebekah (8) and Lillianah (5) Whitcanack told their parents they wanted to help raise money for people in need. The children made a sign and set up a donation booth in front of their home and on Wednesday dropped off $624 for USF and then another $100 for the We Care emergency shelter program.

— Volunteers with the Turlock 20 in 2020 campaign — organized by the Turlock Journal — distributed more than 1,000 donated books to school children across Turlock in May. The Journal asked its readers to donate new books for local children, in an effort to help families who have taken on the task of homeschooling. The response was amazing from individual donors and two specific donations went above and beyond. The Turlock Teachers Association donated 498 books and local author Audrey Pannier donated 673 books.

Heart 2020 3
Turlock Teachers Association volunteers distribute donated books to families picking up meals through the Turlock Unified School District’s grab ‘n go lunch program at Dutcher Middle School in May (Journal file photo).

— Turlock teen Manveer Parmar set out in July with a goal to collect as much food for the needy as he could through the U CAN Food Drive. When the drive ended on Aug. 25, the results exceeded his expectations. Turlock came together to donate 1,000 nonperishable food items, which were donated to the United Samaritans Foundation to be used to feed the city’s less fortunate. What started as a simple idea in his living room turned into a massive project he hopes can help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It means a lot to see a huge amount of donations for the food drive. I knew I would receive a good amount, but never did I expect nearly 1,000,” Parmar said. “I'm really proud of the community and how everyone came together to help a common cause. Without them, this drive would not have succeeded.”

— Members of the First United Methodist Church launched a new outreach campaign in October, #LOVEYOURNEIGHBOR. The campaign has one goal — spread love through small acts of kindness and words of encouragement. The church also had yard signs made with the Love Your Neighbor message on them and then blank spaces on top so that individual words of encouragement could be written on them before giving them to a neighbor. Along with the positive words, the church hoped to inspire random acts of kindness.

“There are all kinds of little things that will add up into a big impact if they do it,” said FUMC Turlock Director of Christian Education Dawn Mallory.

— Since March, 89-year-old George has kept her hands busy by crafting 50 hats and 26 baby blankets for the Turlock Pregnancy and Health Center — all while challenged with macular degeneration, which hinders her sight.

“It’s beautiful to do something that makes people happy,” George said. 

— The Pitman High School Associated Student Body Juniors were able to collect 68 blankets to donate to the Turlock Salvation Army in November. In just over a week, the group had nearly 70 brand-new blankets on their hands. Pitman student Kiran Soomal said this seemed like a fool-proof way to give back from a distance during the pandemic and adhere to state guidelines for school groups. 

“We wanted to give something back because it’s hard for everyone, not only for us not being able to go to school, but it’s starting to get cold now so we wanted to do this for the community,” she said.

— Turlock High School graduate and professional baseball player Kevin Kramer, along with his wife Riley Kramer, launched the Kramer Family Foundation in November — a nonprofit aimed at helping the community through any means possible, whether it be by supporting other local nonprofits or empowering specific causes. At the end of the day, the foundation just wants to do good, Kramer said. Their first order of business? Kevin and Riley personally donated 1,000 meals in the name of their new nonprofit to help the Turlock Salvation Army feed those who are in need this holiday season.

— When 10-year-old Turlock resident Mara Gemperle realized that two of CovenantCare Hospice’s largest fundraisers of the year were shut down this year due to COVID, the Sacred Heart Elementary School fifth grader leapt into action. With the help of her mom Brandy Gemperle, she made Christmas tree ornaments out of clay to sell and raise money for the local nonprofit.

“It feels really great,” Gemperle said of her generous endeavor, which raised $565 for CovenantCare. “I really wanted to help people.”

Volunteer Mask Maker: Patricia Pearson

While major retailers and small businesses have responded to the pandemic with entrepreneurial enthusiasm, Turlock resident Patricia Pearson has opted to instead respond with altruism, volunteering her time to make more than 100 masks for the community free of charge since early April.
By: BY FRANKIE TOVAR/Turlock Journal

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Turlock 20 in 2020 Book Giveaway

The Turlock Journal partnered with the Turlock Unified School District to provide local students with new books to read during in-home learning times with a 20 in 2020 Book Giveaway on May 20, 2020. Visit for more volunteering opportunities.
By: BY FRANKIE TOVAR/Turlock Journal

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