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Collection blitz yields 559 turkeys
Turkeys R Us needs 81 turkeys by 5 p.m. today to meet goal
John Boisseranc, left, makes a turkey donation while posing for a Mannequin Challenge photo during Sundays food drive staged by the Manteca Fire Department and Manteca SAFE volunteers that was conducted in front of the Manteca Safeway. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

The 375-year-old American tradition of sharing the bounty of the harvest is being kept alive in Manteca.

Donors stepped up Saturday and Sunday to donate frozen birds and cash for the equivalent of 559 turkeys through efforts staged by Manteca Transit, Manteca Firefighters Association, Northgate Little League, and  CrossFit Excel.

The breakdown  included a record 67 turkeys from CrossFit Excel,  197 turkeys and $554 cash from Manteca Transit’s Stuff the Bus effort outside Food-4-Less, 97 turkeys and $1,454 cash from the Manteca Fire Department collection outside Safeway, and 63 turkeys and $20 from Northgate Little League.

The donations bring the overall umber of turkeys collected during the three-week drive to 1,769. That leaves a shortfall of 81 turkeys needed by 5 p.m. today in order for deliveries to be made to food closets in time so 1,850 struggling families in Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon can have turkeys in time for Thanksgiving.

If Turkeys R Us collects frozen birds or the cash for 81 more turkeys it will mark the 18th consecutive year that people in the community have stepped up to make sure their neighbors don’t go without a traditional meal at Thanksgiving.

Second Harvest Food Bank Executive Director Mike Mallory noted last year that other professionals in the business of providing for needy households have indicated it is highly unusual for a community the size of Manteca-Lathrop-Ripon — a combined 114,000 residents — to step up to cover all Thanksgiving meal needs for the less fortunate let alone do it 17 consecutive years.

Turkeys R us was born 19 years ago when two real estate agents — Gail Fletcher and Sue Teunissen – who read in the Manteca Bulletin that families would go without Thanksgiving meals that year.

They took up a collection at their office —Crossroads Real Estate — and were able to buy 11 turkeys to take to the food bank.

They recalled how they thought they were making a big dent and asked how meeting the need at Thanksgiving was going. When they were told there would be about 1,000 families going without, it hit them like a ton of bricks.

Teunnisen said at the time it didn’t seem right that while her family would be sitting down to the traditional meal and counting their blessings that neighbors in the community would go without and more than likely end up having hot dogs and macaroni and cheese making it just another day.

From that point out, the two women vowed to make sure that their neighbors that live in arguably the most bountiful valley ever known to mankind would not go without again at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Turkeys R Us effort has made it possible for other once-a-year people who seek assistance to have a traditional holiday meal for their families including single working moms, dual income households that have lower paying jobs, those that rely on seasonal work such as farm jobs, and senior citizens.

The Turkeys R Us effort continues to help the same need at Christmas in the three communities.

Donations of either turkeys or money can be dropped off to the Second Harvest Food Bank that is helping coordinate the effort. The food bank is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 704 Industrial Park Drive in Manteca, phone (209) 239.2091.

Check donations are also being accepted at Crossroads Real Estate at 250 Cherry Lane in Manteca, (209) 823-8141 or LeAnne McNabb with Beacon Real Estate, 211 E. Center St., Suite 5, (209), 815.6754.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email