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Turkeys R Us faces struggle
Higher prices, greater need for 13th annual effort
The staff of Doctors Hospital of Manteca were among those donating turkeys last year to the Turkeys R Us drive. - photo by Bulletin file photo
Turkeys R Us - a community-based effort to make sure no family in Manteca, Lathrop, or Ripon goes without turkey on Thanksgiving and Christmas - is facing an uphill battle this holiday season.

Not only is unemployment 1.5 percent higher now than last year but there are also more people who are struggling with reduced work hours. Making it a triple whammy are turkey prices. They are now running $1.49 a pound as opposed to 65 cents a pound last year.

While Second Harvest Food Bank Executive Director Mike Mallory is scrambling to find a wholesaler with a better price, long-time Turkey R Us organizer Sue Teunissen is getting ready for a tough fundraising campaign.

They raised $35,000 in 2009 to provide turkeys for 2,700 families in Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon for both holidays. That was in addition to outright donations of turkeys. For the past 12 years, Turkeys R Us has met the need. Teunissen is afraid this may be the first year that they don’t.

“It is going to be tough,” she said. “Even though we know the need is going to be greater we’re just hoping we will be able to provide turkeys for the same number of families we did last year.”

Forty-one agencies in the three communities ranging from small church efforts to larger undertakings such as St. Anthony’s St. Vincent de Paul Society and Cornerstone rely on the Turkeys R Us drive to provide the main course for holiday meal boxes.

Demands on food closets skyrocket during the holidays as many families that have avoided asking for help do so due to the holidays. Most of the benefactors of the free turkeys are single working moms, families that have lost one breadwinner or had income reduced due to cutbacks in hours, the recently unemployed, those on disability and the elderly on fixed incomes.

Turkey R Us volunteer LeAnn McNabb noted it wouldn’t seem right of her family to celebrate Thanksgiving with the traditional meal knowing that neighbors or others in the community are feasting on macaroni and cheese and hot dogs as they do most of the year because that is all they can afford.

Turkeys R Us have essentially a month in order to place an order for turkeys, to take delivery, and get them distributed to the food banks in time for Thanksgiving.

Mallory said what Manteca does every year is extremely unusual for a community its size.

“People in Manteca are truly caring,” Mallory said. “This is a special town. You won’t find very many other places that make sure everyone in the community has a holiday meal.”

Turkeys R Us started 13 years ago when Teunissen along with Gail Fletcher were at work at Coldwell Banker Crossroads Real Estate when they read in the Manteca Bulletin there was a shortage of turkeys at Thanksgiving. They got other people in the office and friends to donate 40 turkeys and delivered them to the food bank.

They thought they had covered the need only to be told they were still 1,000 turkeys short.

“We decided then and there no one in our community would go without if we could help it,” Teunissen said.

If you can assist Turkeys R Us, contact Coldwell Banker Crossroads Real Estate at 823-8141.