Turkey drive meets local need with help of schools, sponsors

Nov. 20—Bakersfield North Rotary and the Standard School District hosted a food drive Monday for local families in need.

As part of this year's charitable Thanksgiving Basket Project, the Rotary club, the school district and other organizations raised enough money to donate more than 350 Thanksgiving food boxes for distribution to families at Standard Middle School.

"We do this every year," said President Patrick Hoffman of the Bakersfield North Rotary Club. "This is our 23rd year doing it."

"Through our members, we raise funds along with Chevron and Supervisor Jeff Flores' office," he added. "Then we raise funds to provide the Thanksgiving dinners essential like turkey and all the fixings for 350 families that are identified by the Standard School District."

To make the food drive possible, sponsors like Chevron, Kohls and Supervisor Jeff Flores donated considerable amounts of money.

"It's a huge benefit," Hoffman said. "Chevron donated $5,000 to the cause, Supervisor Jeff Flores' office did $1,000, then the rest of the funds come from either our members or companies that our members are a part of. Overall, it is around $15,000 worth of food that we have to buy."

Hoffman said this year donations surpassed the $15,000 goal.

According to Bakersfield North Rotary, surplus money raised for the event will support Church Without Walls, a nonprofit operating in Oildale that feeds people who are homeless and hungry. Bakersfield North Rotary says this surplus of money will help families year-round.

Hoffman said the amount of excess money going to Church Without Walls is a significant amount.

On top of the generous donations, volunteers showed up ready to work. Chevron sent about 40 employees to participate in the food drive. Kohls sent employees to volunteer, as well. The Kern County Sheriff's Office was in attendance, too, helping the community with a service different from its normal array.

"It helps us to be able to give back in a different way," said Elvie Martinez, a KCSO crime prevention coordinator. "The deputies that came out enjoy being able to do something for the community."

Volunteers from three separate schools took part in the event. Students from North, Frontier and Centennial high schools played an important role by unloading and packing food boxes.

The day began at 6:45 a.m. Volunteers met at the WinCo grocery store to purchase, load and prepare a box truck.

At 8 a.m., teams of volunteers met at a multi-purpose room at the Standard Middle School on Ferguson Avenue. That's when the action really started.

Volunteers unloaded the box trucks and prepared baskets for distribution before the drive-thru began. The boxes consisted of bread rolls, pies, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, black olives, green beans and a turkey.

At 9:30 a.m., Standard School District staff and volunteers distributed the baskets to families. Cars of families lined up on the street while a queue of people waited outside the multipurpose room.

As families picked up their boxes one by one, the holiday spirit brightened faces at the Standard Middle School multi-purpose room. Smiles and joy from volunteers and families were notably visible throughout the community event.

"Each year they identify 350 families that have food insecurity and have needs," Hoffman said. "And then the excess funds do go to Church without Walls, which this year, looking at the numbers, is going to be a significant amount.

"But the impact is just amazing when you see the drive-thru process and the families are just appreciative that they can provide a Thanksgiving meal, so it makes that holiday a lot more enjoyable."