Amid the job loss and economic devastation caused by COVID-19 and its subsequent shutdowns, it’s likely that one decades-old Turlock charity famous for giving back during the holiday season has never been more important. To help meet the needs of the city’s less fortunate, Turlock Together is calling on the community to help support 1,500 families this Christmas.
The voluntary cooperation of ministries, businesses, churches, service clubs and community workers is known for its iconic blue barrels that can be seen around town as part of an annual fundraising effort, which collects unwrapped toys and non-perishable food items for families in need. Turlock Together is gearing up for another year of providing food and toys to local families for the holidays, although the effort will likely look a bit different this year.
Like last year, the organization is in dire need of volunteers to help the charity event take place. Once the donations start coming in, these volunteers are needed to sort the hundreds of nonperishable goods and toys at the Turlock Fruit Company as well as hand out the food and toys during the distribution event. According to Turlock Salvation Army Captain Katie Breazeale, between 60 and 80 volunteers are likely needed this year.
“We don’t really know how it’s going to be this year,” Breazeale said. “There are some people still wanting to volunteer, but there are quite a few who aren’t going to this year because they aren’t sure about being out during the pandemic.”
Registration for Turlock Together’s annual food box and toy distribution event opened a month earlier than usual, meant to give the organization more time to prepare during what has already been a hectic year. Schools normally provide some of the charity’s largest canned food donations, Breazeale pointed out, and while she believes Turlock Together can make up whatever donations are lost through other means, she worries that not enough toys will be donated for children this year.
“I would hate to not be able to give families toys,” Breazeale said. “It’s not in the application that they're guaranteed a toy, but because of everything with people losing their jobs and whatever else, I feel it’s very important to be able to meet that need for children this year.”
Blue barrels have already been placed at all Turlock fire stations and at the Turlock Salvation Army, and Breazeale said Turlock Together is still looking for businesses to request barrels at their locations. In addition to placing toys and food in barrels, community members can also pick up “angel tags” from an angel tree at the Salvation Army or other Turlock locations yet to come, which detail a specific toy a child in need has asked for this year.
The distribution will be a drive-thru set up this year and will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Turlock Salvation Army, 893 Lander Ave. Those in need of clothing or a toy can register online at https://saangeltree.org, and those who would like to register for a food box can call Lissette at 209-669-5366 ext. 1101. Businesses that would like to serve as a blue barrel donation location can also contact Lissette, as well as community members who would like to volunteer to pack boxes on Dec. 15, 16 and 18 at the Turlock Fruit Company or who want to help distribute food and toys on Dec. 19.