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Volunteers come together to help those in need this holiday season
Turlock Together pic3
Max Martell (left), Oliver Thompson (center) and Emerson Thompson (right) add cans of vegetables to the Turlock Together food box assembly line shelves at the Turlock Fruit Company on Wednesday. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

A miracle happens every December in Turlock. People from every walk of life combine their efforts to make Christmas a little bit better for those neighbors in need. This annual labor of love, named Turlock Together, provides 2,000 families two full boxes of food and a toy for each child in those families.

For the past two months, churches, businesses and organizations of every kind have housed large blue barrels for the purpose of collecting new toys and nonperishable food items. Those barrels were collected this week and brought to the Turlock Fruit Company warehouse, where an army of volunteers worked day and night to prepare the food boxes and toys for distribution today.

“It really is a community effort,” said volunteer Bob McCune, who was in charge of coordinating the warehouse work for the first time. “(Volunteers) are coming in from all over.”

On Wednesday night, Hilmar 4-H — along with individual volunteers — spent an hour and half on the nonperishable food box assembly line. By the end of their shift, they had packed 650 boxes with pasta, canned vegetables, cereal, rice, soup, canned fruit, dried beans, canned corn, flour, oil and tomato sauce.

But the night’s work was not over. At 7 p.m., a group of youth and adults from Turlock’s 4th Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints came to lend their hearts and hands to the project.

“It’s a great service to the community and helps the kids put others first, especially at this time of the year,” said LDS adult volunteer Melissa Sommerville.

Turlock Together veteran and Turlock City Fire Captain Manuel Drumonde took vacation from work to volunteer his time collecting and sorting toys this week. He has been collecting toys for Christmas baskets in Turlock since 1979, and he has no plans to stop this annual holiday tradition.

On Wednesday, Drumonde was working all day at the Turlock Fruit Company warehouse bringing in last minute toy donations and sorting them in categories by age appropriateness.

“These last few days have come together (for toy donations),” he said. “But our main concern this year has been the food.

“Previous years we’ve had a few hundred boxes left over, which we give to the Salvation Army, United Samaritans and whoever gives out food boxes,” Drumonde said. “This year, there may not be any left over.”

Over the past few years, he has seen an increase in need for food boxes and toy donations in the Turlock area.

“The big thing I see anymore, especially the last few years, is a lot of unemployment,” Drumonde said. “We’re all a couple of paychecks away from needing (help).”

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.