Students, staff and community partners worked together to provide Thanksgiving meal kits to 500 Canyon Country families during the second annual Give-A-Turkey on Sunday.
“We found a need in our schools that families needed food for Thanksgiving, so we reached out to the community to find the support,” said April Rego, resource coordinator at Golden Valley High School and director of Project SCV. “The community and school districts rallied, and it was amazing.”
Volunteers from Canyon Church, the Sanctuary Church, Silva Realty, and LoveSCV joined staff and students from the William S. Hart Union High School District and Sulphur Springs Union School District to create meal kits, comprised of frozen turkeys, canned foods and other non-perishable items.
“This is just a great collaboration that we do with our two districts … working together to support families that may need a little bit of help during the holiday season,” said Catherine Kawaguchi, superintendent of SSUSD.
When Rego told Chris Silva, of Silva Realty, about the event, he said he fell in love with the idea of trying to feed 500 families.
“All I’m really trying to do is bring awareness to it through social media through my networking of business owners,” Silva said, adding, “and I think we were able to bring a lot of turkeys in today from just the community by raising awareness.”
As some volunteers worked to collect donations, others packed the kits and delivered them to the families who drove through the drop-off zone to pick up their kits.
“It’s been amazing to watch each person’s giftings and each person’s sphere of influence be used to help so many people in the community,” said Susan Christopher, executive director of LoveSCV. “And I think what was even more amazing was watching all the high school kids working together … feeling unified and with something positive to do. It’s been really special to be a part of it.”
“It’s been really heartwarming to know that so many people want to get involved in helping the community, and it’s been an honor to be involved,” College of the Canyons student Christina DeLeon added.
Following the Saugus High shooting Thursday, student volunteers decided to make signs of encouragement for the community, which read, “You Matter” or “Saugus Strong” and the signs were held by those directing traffic.
“They were so excited to make signs because it felt like they were doing something that mattered,” Christopher added.
Golden Valley Principal Sal Frias said he loves to see the outstanding efforts made by these organizations to pull together and work as a team to provide a nice Thanksgiving meal.
“In light of a national tragedy that hit our community, they still are trying to pull together for people that are suffering in another way,” Frias said. “It (shows) what a beautiful community we have and are part of.”
Many of the families in need were identified through the SSUSD’s Family Resource Center and Golden Valley’s PAWS Center, or Parent, Awareness, Workshops and Support.
“What’s cool is the partnership with the schools and social workers,” said Cole Parish, campus pastor at Canyon Church. “They vetted and identified families that are in need, so we’re able to connect with families in a discreet way and just come alongside them — no strings attached, just to love them and help them this holiday season.”
Cindy Takamoto, a social worker for the Hart District, said they wanted to find a way to help local families in a tangible way that they wouldn’t be ashamed of needing.
“They can just say, ‘I need help,’ and they’re not going to be shamed or looked upon badly,” Takamoto said. “Every one of us struggles at some point in our life, and we just want to make sure that our families know that they’re loved and they’re taken care of, so their kids don’t have to worry. They can come to school without fear of being shamed, knowing that the whole community is rallying around them.”
Though only in their second year, organizers hope to expand the program to be able to help families in need valleywide.
For more information, visit giveaturkey.com.
Gilbert Bernal contributed to this report.