MODESTO -- With Thanksgiving a week away and Christmas just around the corner, those who help the needy could use some help themselves.
Food banks, churches and nonprofit organizations are short on turkeys with all the trimmings, canned and boxed food to help the hungry through winter, and coats, toys and clothing for children.
Despite signs of an improving economy in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, social service providers say they continue to help more and more people.
Those seeking help give the same sad reasons: They have lost their jobs; exhausted their unemployment benefits; moved here from the Bay Area to start over, but found gaining a toehold much harder than they thought; or find they have more bills than money.
Second Harvest Food Bank of San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties, Modesto Gospel Mission, and Inter-Faith Ministries of Greater Modesto are among the organizations that need Thanksgiving turkeys.
"The need is up about 10 to 15 percent higher than last year," Second Harvest Chief Executive Officer Mike Mallory said. "It's a combination of things: unemployment and families that have two incomes but are still struggling to make it."
Mallory said as of Wednesday morning, Second Harvest had about 1,400 of the 2,700 Thanksgiving turkeys it will need for Stanislaus County.
But Mallory said he's optimistic that such efforts as turkey drives today at Oak Valley Community Bank, 125 N. Third Ave., Oakdale, and Saturday at the Modesto Wal-Mart on McHenry Avenue will help make up the shortfall.
There also is a turkey drive Saturday in front of the Riverbank Les Schwab Tire store for Riverbank Cares, a group of churches, service clubs and others that provides holiday food and toys to families. Riverbank Cares also needs boxed and canned food and monetary donations.
The Salvation Army will hold its 20th annual Kettle Kickoff luncheon today at Modesto Centre Plaza, which will mark the beginning of holiday fund raising for the organization in the Modesto area. From Friday through Dec. 24, bell ringers with their red kettles will accept donations at shopping centers and other locations.
Salvation Army officials hope to raise $200,000 today at the luncheon and $200,000 from the bell ringers. The money pays for Christmas food and children's toys and clothing for about 2,000 families, as well as the army's other programs, such as helping people with utility bills.
The Salvation Army's Modesto Citadel Corps has seen about a 25 percent increase in requests for help compared with last year, said Brian Aird, corps business coordinator.
Modesto residents Dennis and Christi turned to The Salvation Army on Wednesday for food. Dennis the couple declined to give their last names said he got a full-time warehouse job paying $10.75 an hour a couple of months ago after working part time as a furniture mover. "Times are hard, and we need food," said the 43-year-old.
The couple, who have two children at home, said they are having trouble digging their way out of debt. They just got caught up on their rent and are trying to pay what they owe on past-due electric bills.
"We're trying to pay our debts down to improve our credit," said Christi, who is looking for work and has worked as an office manager and medical biller. "So maybe we can buy a house or a better vehicle."
The Gospel Mission expects to feed and provide warm winter clothing for as many as 1,000 people Wednesday during its annual Thanksgiving Banquet and Bundle Up. But it's short on turkeys and clothing.
The mission needs new and gently used coats, sweatshirts and other outerwear for children and adults of all ages and sizes.
"Being low on turkeys is kind of normal for us, but being low on coats is new for us," said Brad Wilson, the mission's development director.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.
HOW TO HELP
Modesto Gospel Mission
1400 Yosemite Blvd., Modesto, 95354
Inter-Faith Ministries of Greater Modesto
120 Kerr Ave.
Second Harvest Food Bank
704 E. Industrial Park Drive
The Salvation Army
625 I St.
893 Lander Ave.
United Samaritans Foundation
220 S. Broadway