ORANGE, Calif.—Charitable meal distribution centers have opened up throughout Orange County in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday as many families and individuals throughout the California county find themselves struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The varied organizations have been preparing complete Thanksgiving dinners, or grocery staples in boxes, and handing them out to grateful recipients in drive-thru setups.
Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner sponsored a Thanksgiving giveaway on Nov. 23 at the El Modena Family Resource Center in the City of Orange. Cars lined up down the block, and walk-up pedestrians waited on the sidewalk, many with strollers.
Al Tello, a field director for Wagner’s office, told The Epoch Times that given how people are going through tough times, the supervisor and his team wanted to make a difference this year.
“We're going through some very challenging times and we're trying to make things better for people during this Thanksgiving holiday,” Tello said. “A lot of people are having financial problems and we're making these meals available to people who are struggling financially.”
The prepackaged Thanksgiving meals, ready to eat after being heated, were waiting on tables beneath outdoor canopies in front of the center. Those lacking a Thanksgiving meal at home were able to drive up to the canopies, tell the volunteers how many meals they needed, and then drive away.
Tello said that while the individual meals may not cost a lot in terms of monetary value, they can make a world of difference to those who do not have enough food to eat.
Nate, a local who was waiting in line with his young son, told The Epoch Times that the meal provided will feed his family of four on Thanksgiving Day—and it meant a great deal to them.
“It's just a blessing for the family with the holiday coming up. We are going to just share it with the family and have a good meal,” Nate said.
Each boxed meal comes with traditional roast turkey, stuffing, buttermilk mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, sage gravy, cranberry sauce, a dinner roll, butter, a pumpkin maple mousse, and graham cracker crumble.
Scott Voigts, the district director for Supervisor Wagner’s office, told The Epoch Times that some at-risk people are concerned about leaving their homes, even to get a meal.
“I think a lot of people are going through this,” Voigts said. “Some people are in isolation and lockdown mode, where they feel like they can't go out of the house, and this is a way for us to at least show some in society that we still care.”
Wagner’s sponsored Thanksgiving meal giveaway was scheduled to continue on Nov. 24 at Irvine City Hall.
A second food distribution event was held beginning around 10 a.m. on Nov. 23 at First Assembly Church in Santa Ana, where volunteers created a large drive-thru setup in the parking lot for people to swing by and pick up large boxes full of groceries.
The church had prepared 1,200 boxes of food to give away, which included various protein items, dairy, produce, and some type of treats. The grocery haul was valued at between $60 to $70 per box.
The boxes were given to the church by City Serve, an organization that helps people lacking basic necessities. In addition, First Assembly raised money to purchase 60 turkeys, which were also given out during the distribution.
By about 11:30 a.m., the church had already given away approximately 900 boxes of food, to be used by people to supplement their Thanksgiving dinners or enjoy another time.
Pastor Alonzo Charles, in charge of First Assembly’s outreach efforts, told The Epoch Times that each box can feed a family of four, and said the church would give a second box to those with larger families.
“It's also a cool way to partner with the community, because we as a church want to be a beacon of hope, a beacon of light in that community, whether we're in a dark purple tier or not,” said Charles.
“We just want to be a light to the community, and so this was a great opportunity to partner with the different organizations.”
This is the church’s third wave of food distribution this year, Charles noted, with the others taking place near the end of September and during the summer.
“We're doing it today because Thanksgiving is this week, and why not give some groceries for the big meals that are coming up, or at least giving families an opportunity to have a Thanksgiving meal for those that need it,” Charles said.
Other churches or organizations were also able to come and collect from a half-pallet to a pallet full of food boxes from the First Assembly Church, enabling a greater range of distribution by offering different pickup locations to those in need.
Said Charles, “We're blessed to be a blessing. We believe that this is something that God just gave us, just dropped in our lap, and because of that we believe that we’re called to be a light to the community.”
On Thanksgiving Day, the Second Harvest Food Bank will be distributing up to 7,000 prepared holiday meals at a drive-thru line at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
Each family who attends the Thanksgiving drive-thru will receive a box of four heat-and-serve meals, which include turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, and vegetables. They will also get a box of produce, a box of shelf-stable foods, a Thanksgiving pie, and some Hawaiian bread, adding up to 75 pounds of food per car.