Turlock resident Gaylene Cornell’s husband Bill passed away from cancer three years ago and when his birthday would come around on Dec. 31, she usually marked it with a donation to the American Cancer Society. But this New Year’s Eve, as the clock was counting down, she realized she had forgotten her donation and set out to put something together.
That little slip of the mind led to a community-wide effort to show their gratitude for Emanuel Medical Center employees by providing them meals from local restaurants. It’s now growing to include Turlock’s police and fire departments and emergency medical technicians.
“The response from the community has been amazing,” Cornell said. “It shows that we can do a lot when we pool together.”
The food drive began when Cornell posted on the Facebook page Turlock To Go asking what restaurants would be open on New Year’s Day. As suggestions came in, one person asked for more details and Cornell said she was going to have meals delivered to staff at the hospital and the cancer center.
“It all started from there,” Cornell said. “One person asked if they could donate and then it just grew.”
Over the last week food and desserts have been provided to all shifts at Emanuel and the cancer center from Kraving Kebab Pizza (who made pizzas and baklava on New Year’s Day, even though they were closed) Toscana’s Ristorante, Dean’s Pizza and Olde Tyme Pastries.
Cornell said the restaurants all gave discounts to help make the donations go further.
“You have no idea how incredibly full my heart is because of all the wonderful people that live in Turlock and came together as a community to help give a little bit back to the people that are keeping us alive. I know Bill is looking down and smiling on all of us,” Cornell said.
“We can’t thank Gaylene and our community enough for the kindness and generosity they’ve shown for our caregivers,” said EMC CEO Lani Dickinson. “Our teams are grateful for the amazing support, especially during these difficult times. Gaylene’s act of kindness, in honor of her late husband, means the world to us. I know many of our staff members were moved by Gaylene’s story and were so appreciative that she wanted to give back to the team that cared for her husband. These gestures go a long way and make us so proud to be a part of the Turlock community.”
The generosity from the community continues. Cornell said they have plans to feed all shifts at the Turlock Police Department on Tuesday and Wednesday from Vito’s Ristorante and then will feed the Turlock Fire Department and American Medical Response workers over the next two weeks.
Anyone interested in donating to the effort can find information on the Facebook page Turlock Cares.