Carla Strong is glad to be called a turkey so that those barely scraping by don’t have a turkey of a Thanksgiving.
“I don’t mind it a bit,” said Strong, one of the original founders of Riverbank Cares. “In fact, I fight for the privilege.”
She was flagging down motorists in her turkey suit at the Les Schwab Tire Center and Galaxy Theatres on Patterson Road for the Riverbank Cares Committee’s annual Drive-by Turkey Drive on Saturday. The weeks and days leading up to Thanksgiving are crunch time for organizations trying to feed those less fortunate, as they scramble to gather ample supplies. Saturday’s drive was for Christmas.
“We’ve actually had a very good turnout,” Strong said. “I would say we have probably, at this point, we have right around 100 turkeys. It’s hard to tell on the food, but, at this point, we just pile it on.”
Canned and nonperishable food items were going into banana boxes, with Strong saying the drive filled 15 boxes and collected a little more than $800 in cash.
Riverbank Cares acts as the coordinating arm for the collection and storage of food, and Christian Food Sharing, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Riverbank Rotary distribute the food, Strong said. O’Brien’s Market stores the turkeys that Riverbank Christian Food Sharing cannot, she said.
“This really is a communitywide effort,” Strong said. “We actually started collecting food on the 16th of November, and we’ll be collecting food through December 20.”
The goal is to feed at least 300 families, said Strong, by providing each with either a turkey or ham, fresh fruit and vegetables and all the fixings, with ample leftovers. “We feed everybody who shows up. Even if we have to buy food at the last minute, we don’t turn anybody away,” she said.
Last year, the group served just shy of the 300 families that requested food, she said.
Strong said the need continues to grow: Riverbank Christian Food Sharing handed out 168 food boxes two weeks ago and 205 Friday, and St. Vincent de Paul feeds an average 50 to 60 families a week. She blamed recent cuts to food stamps.
Donations will continue to be accepted at O’Brien’s Market, also on Patterson Road, and people can donate “turkey bucks” the grocer gives out toward buying the birds. Nonperishable food can be dropped off until Dec. 18 at city offices, O’Brien’s Market in Riverbank and the Roseburg store in Modesto, Galaxy, Westamerica Bank, St. Frances of Rome Church, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District, Riverbank Library, Fair Deal Market, Riverbank Suave Dental and Riverbank TSW Financial Services.
For more information on donating, or to tell organizers about people in need, call (209) 863-7153 or (209) 869-3710.