Giving spirit alive and well in Los Banos

By Thaddeus Miller/tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comNovember 15, 2012 

There really is no offseason for some nonprofits, but the spotlight shines brighter around the holidays

"We're blessed," said Salvation Army envoy Bonnie Roberts. "Turkeys are trickling in."

The Salvation Army's Los Banos outpost plans to feed 300 at a Thanksgiving meal for hungry families Saturday and a coming Christmas meal, as well as some extra additions to the 300 food boxes the nonprofit passes out a month.

The Thanksgiving food box will include a chicken and holiday trimmings.

Roberts said the Los Banos

community is generous and the outpost is in relatively good shape, but The Salvation Army relies mostly on food and cash donations.

"I'm not going to say we're hurting," she said. "Yeah, things are down, but the economy is down. It's just the way of life now."

A dozen volunteers started preparing Saturday's meal Thursday and will finish today. Roberts said the meal was moved from the Elks Lodge to United Methodist Church because it has a larger kitchen, is visible because it already serves hungry families every Sunday and "the price is right."

Roberts said the outpost could use turkeys, canned foods and other holiday trimmings like cranberry sauce and dressing.

Roberts said a $2,500 donation from Memorial Hospital Los Banos will go toward the Christmas meal next month. However, the outpost will need help with its toy and coat drives.

Roberts said she hopes, since the mercury has begun to drop, families who can give will remember the outpost while doing their own holiday shopping.

Toys for Tots

The organizer of the Westside's Toys for Tots effort said 17,000 children in Los Banos, Dos Palos, Gustine and Santa Nella received gifts last year, and she expects the number to grow in 2012.

"We've had a lot of people come who are job displaced," Flores said.

Toys for Tots barrels will be up at Pacheco Boulevard's Walmart and Kmart, she said.

Flores also runs the U.S. Freedom Alliance, which passed out almost 400 food boxes last Thanksgiving to hungry families. Her organization also provides boxes monthly.

"We've been blessed to be able to do it; we've been doing it for 13 years," Flores said.

The families she feeds come by referral, she said. Flores purchases the food from a fund from church and private donors, as well as fundraising raffles.

Donations can be made Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 541 I St. For more, call Flores at (831) 905-7966.

Kops for Kids

Los Banos Police Department Christmas toy drive Kops for Kids will give away about 300 playthings to children in town.

"It has increased over the last few years," said Noah Jones, the Police Activities League officer.

Anyone can sign up for toys, he said, but school nurses decide which families are neediest and those chosen get the items first.

Families can sign up for Kops through Nov. 30 at the PAL office, 444 J St. For more, call the office at (209) 827-0603.

Toy donations can be made to one of the about a dozen barrels around town. The most prominent barrels can be found in Los Banos City Hall, Police Station, Fire Station No. 1 and California Highway Patrol office.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

Lend A Hand

Residents of Los Banos know giving thanks means giving back to the community. Here's where to get involved:

The Salvation Army will be giving out food boxes Wednesday at its headquarters at 415 I St. For more information, call (209) 827-4945.

The Salvation Army will serve its annual Thanksgiving meal at noon Saturday at United Methodist Church, 1031 Iowa Ave. For more information, call (209) 827-4945.

The Westside's Toys for Tots drive is in full swing, with collection barrels set up outside the Pacheco Boulevard Walmart and Kmart. For information, call (831) 905-7966.

U.S. Freedom Alliance will provide 400 food boxes, Donations can be made Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 541 I St. For more information, call (831) 905-7966.

Banos Police Department Christmas toy drive Kops for Kids hopes to pass out 300 toys. Sign up at the PAL office, 444 J St., or call (209) 827-0603

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos

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