Turlock High School senior Felisha Dias has an incredible singing voice, and her talent has now helped give back to the Turlock community twice in less than a year.
Last December, Dias was named the winner of the second annual Foster Farms “Oh Say Can You Sing” contest, giving her the opportunity to sing the national anthem at one of the biggest college football games in the nation, the Foster Farms Bowl, and a chance to select a charity of her choice to be gifted 1,000 meals from the organization.
As a result, the United Samaritans Foundation in Turlock received 2,700 pounds of chicken to help serve the community’s less fortunate last winter, and to kick of the 2018 “Oh Say Can You Sing” competition, Foster Farms and Dias returned to the nonprofit Tuesday morning to once again donate in Dias’ name.
“I thought it was amazing, phenomenal that Foster Farms was able to donate again, because the first time it went so well and we helped so many people, and now we get to help even more people again,” said Dias.
Dias, representatives from Foster Farms and USF volunteers gathered at the foundation to hand out 300 donated holiday turkeys – enough to provide 6,000 meals for families hand-selected by local organizations like Westside Ministries, Children’s Crisis Center and Salvation Army, said USF Executive Director Bev Hatcher.
The generosity of Foster Farms and Dias allowed USF to give away Thanksgiving food boxes to those in need for the first time, she added, and the meals were completed with other foods donated by Kaiser Foundation.
“It’s tremendous,” said Hatcher. “We’ve never been able to do this before, but thanks to this donation, we are blessed to really be able to help now.”
Turlock resident Maria Cruz was in line with her daughter at 9 a.m. to get a turkey. Without the Foster Farms donation, her family would not have been able to have Thanksgiving dinner, she said.
“This is a big, big blessing because it’s been a rough year for us,” said Cruz, whose husband was in an accident earlier in the year that left her family struggling to make ends meet. “We’re only just starting to get back on our feet.”
The food insecurity rate in California currently sits at around 14 percent, said Foster Farms Director of Communication Ira Brill, and in the Central Valley, the rate is about 18 percent.
“This is where all the food in the western United States comes from, so there really shouldn’t be food insecurity here, but there is,” said Brill. “There is a real need, and this is a time where the food banks have a real need, too. Thanksgiving is one of the only times we sit down as a family and have a meal, so let’s make sure everyone can enjoy it.”
In total, Foster Farms will donate 160,000 Thanksgiving meals in communities from San Diego to Seattle. Dias is happy to have made sure at least some of those meals help those in her hometown, she said, and the experience of winning the Foster Farms competition is one that she will always cherish.
“Aside from helping my community and getting to see all that this program has done for my hometown, I got to live one of my dreams singing and it’s just great,” she said.
Foster Farms is once again looking for a local singing sensation to perform in front of 70,000 football fans before the Bowl game at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 27.
The contest is open to soloists and groups aged 18 and under, residing in the San Francisco Bay Area or the Central Valley. The contest draws entries from singers as young as six years old.
Singers are invited to enter by posting a 30- to 45-second video singing the national anthem on YouTube. Videos must be titled “I Want to Sing at the Foster Farms Bowl.” Contestants must also complete the entry form on www.SingatFosterFarmsBowl.com by midnight Nov. 30. Ten finalists will be invited to a live audition where a panel of judges will select the winner.
“The singing competition is a nice little icing on the cake, but we really want to encourage other businesses in the Valley to give back if they can,” said Brill.