Turlock Together’s trademark blue barrels slowly disappeared from their locations at schools, fire stations and businesses around the city over the past week, as hundreds of volunteers worked tirelessly to sort, package and prepare for today’s big event: distribution day.
Annually, local businesses, churches, nonprofits and organizations join forces to provide for Turlock’s less fortunate, forming Turlock Together. The Salvation Army is at the head of this effort, distributing blue barrels to participating businesses for the collection of non-perishable food items and new toys.
These collections are stored at the Turlock Fruit Company, and then sorted in the days preceding today’s distribution – a big event for families who have registered to receive donations. Each family is provided with a box of non-perishable food, a box of perishable food and children 10 and under receive a toy.
Volunteer Jeff Lorenzi began helping the cause over 10 years ago, and started out by simply helping sort barrels. Now, he heads the sorting and packaging operation at the Turlock Fruit Company warehouse, along with fellow volunteer Willis VanRuler.
“This brings everybody in Turlock all together as one to serve the community. It’s always a fun deal around the holidays to be able to give back,” said Lorenzi. “This will really give them something to brighten up their holiday.”
Lorenzi was at the warehouse on Wednesday night sorting barrels, along with Walnut Elementary School’s RAD program – a leadership group comprised of sixth graders who have made it their mission to give back to the community. During the week leading up to today’s distribution event, about 40 people volunteered at the warehouse nightly, said Lorenzi, including groups like RAD, 4-H clubs, Boy Scouts and church groups.
“It’s really nice seeing all of these different groups coming in and putting in the time,” said Lorenzi. “It’s fun to be down here during distribution, too, to see how grateful the families are, especially when they have a little kid who gets a toy.”
On Wednesday night Walnut RAD students formed an assembly line to package boxes of non-perishable food items for today’s distribution, providing families with groceries like flour, cooking oil, rice, canned goods and pasta. In addition to the non-perishable food box, families also receive a perishable food box with chicken donated by Foster Farms, cheese donated by Hilmar Cheese Company, eggs donated by Gemperle Farms and tomato sauce donated by Cost Less Foods.
RAD member Luke Delgado enjoyed donating his free time for a good cause, he said.
“It’s really great because I had never really helped with the community before, but RAD gave me the opportunity to do that. It feels great that I get to help people because I used to just watch as people needed food, but now I know how to help,” said Delgado. “This was even better than I expected. I didn’t know it was going to be so fast-paced, but it was really fun.”
A typical Turlock Together season yields about 130 barrels filled with about 80 percent food donations and 20 percent toy donations, said Lorenzi, but the city’s giving spirit was even greater this year, with nearly 135 barrels collected.
Each barrel can weigh up to 475 pounds when filled to the brim with canned food, meaning that over 60,000 pounds of food was donated for the 1,400 families that Turlock Together will help today.