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Food Distributions Save Thanksgiving for Local Families: 'I Couldn't Afford the Extra Groceries'
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Published 5 months ago on
November 22, 2023

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More than 2,000 Fresno-area families will be enjoying turkey dinners with all the trimmings Thursday thanks to two “Operation Gobble” events sponsored by City Councilmember Mike Karbassi and Council President Tyler Maxwell and the 15th annual Turkey Drive sponsored by the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fresno.

Mikayla Hogan was idling in a line of cars Tuesday morning at Pinedale Elementary School, waiting her turn to pick up a turkey, milk, pumpkin pie, and bag of groceries with mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and Hawaiian rolls.

Her family is one of 400 benefiting from donations to the District 2 Operation Gobble in northwest Fresno organized by Karbassi. Maxwell’s Operation Gobble on Sunday benefitted 450 families, and the Catholic Charities expects to feed 1,250 families in a turkey giveaway that will start at 8 a.m. Wednesday at 149 N. Fulton St. and continue while supplies last.

“The word Thanksgiving says it all,” Bishop Joseph Brennan said in a news release. “Through this community event, we are able to give thanks by giving to others.”

‘It Means We Get to Eat Thanksgiving Dinner’

Hogan said she got her ticket to Tuesday’s operation through Pinedale Elementary, where her two children attend.

What does Operation Gobble mean for her family? “It means we get to eat Thanksgiving dinner,” she said as she choked back tears. “Yeah, it was going to be a regular dinner if we didn’t have this because I couldn’t afford the extra groceries.

“I’m touched that there’s a program like this available so that we can have a Thanksgiving meal.”

Hogan said the food will feed three generations — her mother and mother-in-law, her wife and herself, and their two children.

Betsy Napoleon, who received her ticket through Valley Caregivers, drove down from Madera to wait in line for her turkey meal. She said she’s been coming for years.

What would she say to those who donated time, resources, and funding for the meals? “God bless,” she said. “We need more lovin’ and understandin’.”

Turkeys for Operation Gobble at Pinedale Elementary School, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (GV Wire/Eric Martinez)

Helping Families

Karbassi said the District 2 Operation Gobble was underwritten by contributions from a number of donors, including Pacific Gas and Electric, Granville Homes, Amazon, Producers Dairy, and Cook Land Company. The total cost was around $20,000.

Although the cost of turkeys has come down compared to last year, when avian flu decimated flocks and reduced supplies, the prices of other groceries has continued to climb, he said.

“Families experienced another burden this year, a continuing burden called inflation,” Karbassi said. “Inflation is hurting families. This year alone, the price of potatoes has risen 14% and even canned green beans are up 9%.”

In addition to feeding neighborhood families, 70 meals were loaded into trucks heading for the 144th Fighter Wing at the National Guard base at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, to be distributed to the families of deployed reservists, said Dorene Viera, the family readiness program manager.

And about 40 were loaded up for distribution through the Fresno Police Department chaplaincy program, which has been working with families of runaway children through Project STEALTH, senior chaplain Kevin Llanos said.

Office of Councilmember Arias Gives Out 600 Turkeys, 700 Boxes of Local Veggies

And, the Marjaree Mason Center received 100 Thanksgiving meals for victims of domestic violence from New Covenant Community Church.

Cranberry Sauce or Jelly?

Karbassi said he took personal interest in making sure that the bags of groceries contained one particular item.

“When it comes to the cranberry sauce, I insist upon that because I think every kid deserves that, cranberry jelly,” he said. “There’s a big debate about the cranberry sauce or jelly.”

Is he Team Sauce or Team Jelly? “I’m with the jellied version — I don’t like the version with chunks of cranberry in it.”

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