story: Kerri Regan
REDDING ROTARY THANKSGIVING FOOD DRIVE
It’s more than a turkey and the trimmings. It’s a gesture of goodwill, generosity and compassion – an affirmation that the kindness of strangers can lift you up when times are the toughest.
Redding Rotary is in the midst of its annual Thanksgiving food drive, which brings turkey dinners and a week’s worth of groceries to some 300 struggling families. It’s one of several North State food drives – including one organized by the Lions Club – that helps ensure that all families can be thankful for a holiday feast.
The effort serves a diverse group, from young families to the elderly, says Bob Allen, who has co-chaired the event for eight years. The need is greater this year than ever, says Scott Putnam, another event co-chair.
It relies upon the help of Rotary’s community partners – Shasta Women’s Refuge, Shasta Senior Nutrition Programs, Northern Valley Catholic Social Service and the Salvation Army – who nominate people for the food baskets. They’re also buoyed by local chapters of the Boy Scouts of America, Shasta High School and University Preparatory School, who collect thousands of cans of food to help fill the baskets. Former Redding Rotary President Pat Corey of McHale Signs donates a warehouse to serve as a storage area and workspace, and event co-chair Gene Poch wrangles up enough volunteers to get the job done. About 120 Rotarians lend a hand toward this annual endeavor, Putnam says.
Allen, like many Rotarians, has enjoyed taking his now-grown children out with him to deliver the food baskets. “They see what poverty is really about,” says Allen, of Ikon Office Solutions in Redding. “Some people are down and out, and you help them.”
Putnam also enlists his kids, ages 8 and 5, to help with deliveries. “I love to deliver the food to the families, especially the families with kids, to see how happy they are,” says Putnam, the owner of Apex Technology Management. “I take my kids to help them appreciate what they have. They want to give and be a part of it. It’s easy to tell them that some kids have no toys and no big house to live in, but seeing this really impacts them.”
Naturally, sometimes the process isn’t as smooth as they might hope, but they’re pretty good at improvising, Allen says. “One year some guys delivered to the wrong house. When they realized their mistake, they went to the store and bought all new groceries for the family” that was originally slated to receive the donation, he says.
Allen can’t imagine what the Thanksgiving holiday would be like without this project. “I’ve been here my whole life, so I wanted to give back to my community,” Allen says. “It’s always been something that’s been dear to my heart.” •
To donate, mail checks to: Redding Rotary 1700 Pine St., Suite 300 Redding, CA 96001 Or call (530) 243-2452