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Turkeys R Us & Manteca deliver for 12th year

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POSTED November 23, 2009 1:11 a.m.

Count your blessings this Thanksgiving that you live in Manteca.

Yes Manteca has its share of problems but consider this: For the 12th straight year Manteca residents, businesses and service organizations have stepped up so not one struggling family in Manteca, Ripon, or Lathrop will go without a traditional turkey feast this Thanksgiving.

Turkeys R Us raised enough funds – and actual donations of turkeys to cover the needs of 1,300 struggling households. That represents more than $14,000 in donations in less than three weeks ranging from the ever generous Center Appliance that gave over $1,000 to a retired gentleman living on Social Security who contributed $10. The effort is continuing for Christmas to make sure the same 1,300 struggling families have either a ham or a turkey. The turkeys are secured through Second Harvest Food Bank and distributed to food closets serving the needy in Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon.

If you don’t think this is an impressive gesture of community outpouring that is now on a 12-year streak consider a story shared a few years back by former Second Harvest Food Bank Executive Director Paul Rengh who know oversees Manteca CAPS.

He was attending a national conference of regional food banks when he told of the Turkeys R Us effort. Everyone who heard it was astounded. It was completely unheard of to have a community step up like Manteca does every year and make sure the turkey needs of those who are less fortunate are covered.

Stanislaus County, as an example, which has a much greater need that runs into the thousands only came up with a couple hundred turkeys. The same is true for the rest of San Joaquin County.

Making this year’s effort even more impressive than those in past years is the fact Manteca is dealing with a crushing 14.1 percent unemployment rate with many of the traditional contributors – construction workers and retailers – hit hard by The Great Recession. Individuals and families stepped up to the plate. More often than not they gave more than last year noting they were in somewhat better financial shape and they didn’t want to see those hurting in the economy go without.

The economy – and the recovery – may be uneven but what is still on an even keel is Manteca’s heart.

No one wanted to see those living in the world’s most bountiful farming region go without.

Rengh said he was motivated by the single working mom with a full-time job who had a child but could ill-afford luxuries such as a traditional Thanksgiving meal can run in excess of $60. He said there was something wrong with everyone else having turkey while some kid and his mom celebrate the day of thanks with hot dogs and beans.

It is the same passion that drives the current food bank executive director, Mike Mallory.

Both Rengh and Mallory will tell you this wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the Manteca community and two ladies – Gail Fletcher and Sue Teunissen.

“This has to be one of the most incredible caring communities around,” Mallory said of Manteca several weeks ago.

Fletcher and Teunissen started the Turkeys R Us effort over a dozen years ago. The two real estate agents read in the Manteca Bulletin about families going without and felt they had to do something.

When they collected 12 turkeys and dropped them off at the food bank, they asked if that would cover the need. They were stunned to find out that over 600 families who lived in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop would go without.

They vowed not to let that happen again. They’ve met their goal for Thanksgiving and now they need help for Christmas.

A number of people take the free turkeys they get for buying a set amount of food at supermarkets during the holidays and donate that to the effort.

Donations (make checks out to Turkeys R Us) can be dropped off at Coldwell Banker Crossroads offices at 319 Main Street near North Street in Manteca or 15810 S. Harlan Road in Lathrop or the Second Harvest Food Bank, 704 E. Industrial Park Drive in Manteca.

If you want to donate a frozen turkey or ham, take it directly to the food bank

For more information contact Crossroads Real Estate at 823-8141 or the food bank at 239-2091.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail

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