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As Turkey Day Trimmings Fly, ATCAA Seeks More Holiday Helping Hands

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Sonora, CA – Today, Tuolumne neighbors were all smiles, bustling about a gym packed to the gills with nearly 3000 bags containing the makings for hundreds of Thanksgiving feasts.

It was “moving day” for the annual Thanksgiving food distribution in Tuolumne County, sponsored by the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency (ATCAA), which will shortly gear up for a second wave, just ahead of the Christmas holidays.

“Our intention is that our families who need a little bit of a boost have everything they need to make dinner with their family and friends during the holiday — and don’t have the extra burden on their limited finances,” explains ATCAA Food Bank Director Lee Kimball. She adds, to help them prepare ahead of time, “We get [the dinner makings] out the week before and we are also delivering to the home bound.” She anticipates that before 4 p.m., about 800 families who preregistered will have come through the distribution center, which set up at Sonora’s Church of Latter Day Saints on Hillsdale Drive.

Ahead of that, Kimball says hundreds of volunteers helped with packing and staging all the food items for the main event, including a crew of 75 from Sierra Bible Church, who pitched in on Wednesday. (For images of staging activities and Friday’s event, click the slideshow in the upper left image box.)

Sign Up For Christmas Cheer — And To Volunteer

Applications are now being taken for the Christmas distribution. To qualify, residents should be within 185 percent of the current USDA poverty guidelines; for a family of four that would be a maximum of $3,738 per month, which is roughly $40,000 per year. Forms are available at the ATCCA service center in Sonora, located at 427 North Highway 49, Suite 301. The center is open to the public Monday through Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Although Kimball did not know the final deadline for sign up, she indicates that it would be wise to apply by Thursday, Dec. 2.

Discussing this year’s need, compared to that of recent years past, Kimball enthuses, “We have proof, not just looking at our numbers, but those other nonprofit organizations we assist with supplies, that everybody’s numbers are eking down a little bit – Hallelujah!” She says it is a definite sign that the recession may be over for even smaller rural communities like those in Tuolumne County. “First in, last out,” she remarks wryly.

This year, Kimball matter-of-factly states, “We are very short on volunteers, particularly people with good driving records…or people who can take a little of the physical work…even folks to stuff envelopes is helpful.” Helping out as the holidays approach she says, is good for the soul and may even spark in newbies a desire to make volunteering an annual tradition, as it has for many others. With obvious joy, she shares, “We have families come in with children — we have teenagers dropped off…grandparents…just all kinds of folks come and help out – and there is all kinds of work to do!” In fact, there are so many opportunities for individuals, families and groups to lend a hand, Kimball advises interested parties to simply give her office a call at 209 984-3960 to discuss various needs and options. “Leave your name and a phone number and that will get a call back and we will figure out how to dial you up with something,” she chuckles.

Too, Kimball adds, “We are very much needing monetary donations so we can make sure that people have what they need to be able to get turkeys.” Keep an eye out for ATCAA’s red collection barrels that are now at nearly every market in the county, she says. Since hunger does not take a holiday, in addition to festive non-perishables, she also notes that “cans of soup, chili and vegetables, all those things that we also need all year long are also so welcome.”