Giving is gravy this Thanksgiving

The Holidays are upon us, meaning outlets for goodwill and generosity are gearing to give, give and give some more.
The Holidays are upon us, meaning outlets for goodwill and generosity are gearing to give, give and give some more.

With methods of donating easier than polishing off a turkey leg, consider foregoing Adam Sandler’s new Thanksgiving flick (it looks pretty bad, anyways) and spending the saved admission money on a pumpkin pie, several cans of green beans or a few boxes of stuffing. With a rough population of 3,400 homeless people in South County and 4,964 individuals receiving CalFresh (formerly known as food stamps) any gesture of generosity – no matter how big or small – will help make a difference.


What began as a personal conviction to bless one or two families in her community has blossomed into an impressive outreach project.

Last year, Kulia Lemus – then 33 and on disability – decided she wanted to buy all of the ingredients necessary for to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner; then bequeath one needy family with all the grocery trappings they would need to cook their own meal.

Using $40 of her own money, plus a gift card given to her by her boss, Lemus ended up providing for two families for Thanksgiving 2010.

This year, after deciding to repeat the gesture, Lemus’s efforts are multiplied by her boss, family, two best friends Jessica Geer and Dolores Garcia and others who responded to a post on Lemus’s Facebook page.

“The response has been overwhelming, and it now looks as if we’re going to be able to help 18 families with their Thanksgiving meals,” said Lemus, whose goal is to give a few needy families “one less thing to stress about.”

She’s named her outfit “Operation Gobble Gobble.”

How to help:

– Lemus said the best way to help out is by donating a gift card to help with the grocery shopping, or donating a 10 to 12 pound turkey. Give her a call at (408) 761-0815.


For this local social services bastion that doled out more than 1.4 million pounds of groceries to low-income families between July 2010 and June 2011, stocking a giant walk-in freezer with approximately 750 turkeys (for Thanksgiving alone; they’ll need another 750 for Christmas) is just one significant to-do item on their ongoing punch list. Assistance is always welcome.

How to help:

– The second annual Turkey Challenge between Gilroy and Christopher High School is on. In the spirit of giving (and bragging rights) the two schools will race each other from Nov. 8 through Nov. 18 to see who can collect the most turkeys for St. Joseph’s.

For the second time, the local nonprofit Gilroy Foundation is also getting in on the challenge; matching the effort by up to $1,000 for both schools (or $5 for every turkey donated). So if you don’t have time to stop by St. Joseph’s, just send your student to school with a turkey.

– Don’t feel like giving a turkey? St. Joseph’s is also hoping to pass out holiday baking items such as flour, sugar, oil, salt, cranberry sauce, yams, etc. and will need 750 of each.

– According to Pantry Coordinator Vicky Martin, St. Joseph’s is “constant” need of “lunch items” such as pop-top fruit cups, meats, small water bottles, granola bars and crackers for the estimated 80 bagged lunches they distribute daily. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also highly desirable.

– Thanksgiving holiday distribution will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 21 and 22. Receiving donations by Friday, Nov. 18 is optimal.

– Details: St. Joseph’s is located at 7950 Church St. For donation questions, call at (408) 842-6662, ext. 26 or visit


With a newly renovated home base in a historic 1800s church located on the corner of Church and Fifth streets, the Salvation Army in Gilroy is looking dapper as it revs up for the holiday season.

How to help:

– Thanksgiving distribution (consisting of food baskets and turkeys) will take place at 9:30 to 5 p.m. Nov. 16. As the Salvation Army doesn’t have a surplus of refrigerator/freezer space and will be renting a refrigerated truck, donations of perishable items are time sensitive and would be appreciated on Nov. 14 or 15. Non-perishable items are appreciated any time.

– Desired donations include holiday-type food (stuffing mix, canned corn, mashed potatoes) and turkeys, chickens and hams.

– The Salvation Army is closed Nov. 25, but will be serving a Thanksgiving lunch for the homeless at noon on Nov. 24.

– Hot meals for the homeless are regularly served Monday through Friday at noon.

– Details: – The Salvation Army is located at 200 West Fifth St. in Gilroy. Call (408) 848-5373 or visit


The South County Realtor Alliance, along with the Gilroy Dispatch, is kicking off the annual drive for canned food and donations. All donated items will remain in the area for local families in need. Can Tree Drive has contributed more than $80,000 for local charities in the last four years.

How to help:

– Pick up can also be arranged for those who don’t have time to drop off their donations.

– Details: Donations will be accepted until 5:30, Dec. 20. For questions, call Lisa Cassara at (408) 848-7967 or email [email protected]

– Donation barrels are stationed at the following locations:

GILROY: Santa Barbara Bank & Trust; Coldwell Banker Real Estate; Intero Real Estate; South County Chrysler; South County Nissan; Gilroy Chevrolet; Kutz and Colors; Bruce’s Tires; Gilroy Dispatch; Heritage Bank; Old Republic Title; Gilroy Interim Art Center; Regent Financial.

MORGAN HILL: Alain Pinel Realtors; Coldwell Banker Real Estate; Intero Real Estate; Wells Fargo Bank; Guild Mortgage;

Realty World Real Estate; Bank of America; Hot Java.


The Gilroy Compassion Center is a hoped-for, year-round homeless shelter that is a grassroots vision advocates are working to solidify into reality. The Compassion Center would like to offer a centralized resource office called a One-Stop Center staffed with case managers and representatives from various social agencies. Temporary sleeping and showering facilities would also be set up in the industrial structure, which is in need of renovations and external upgrades. The Center regularly hosts outreach events throughout the year.

How to help:

– The Compassion Center does not have anything planned for Thanksgiving, but plans to start providing limited day services (phones, bathrooms, referrals) by Nov. 28. Because the city’s current shelter, the National Guard Armory at 8490 Wren Ave., opens at 6 p.m. and closes at 6 a.m., the Compassion Center will be open as a place to get indoors for a little while away from the rain and cold, and to receive messages, look at job listings and be put in touch with social service agencies. The center plans on providing this service while continuing to move forward with its plans of opening a permanent, year-round shelter with supportive services.

– The center is in need of hand soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, folders, pens, pencils, two desktop computers, a copy machine, toothpaste, toothbrushes, rain ponchos, socks, underwear, granola bars, instant soups, trail mix, gently used blankets, sleeping bags, backpacks and tote bags.

– The center is entirely volunteer operated and is in need of volunteers to staff the front desk and resource room, sort and organize donated items, plan special events and raise money for facilities improvements and operations. Owners Jim and Debbie Currier have made their building warehouse available rent-free for five years; however volunteers will need to raise money for ongoing expenses including insurance, utilities, telephone and Internet service.

– Monetary contributions should be make out to the Gilroy Foundation, with the Gilroy Compassion Center in the memo line of the check. The mailing address is Gilroy Compassion Center, P.O. Box 233, Gilroy, CA, 95021.

– Details: Email the Gilroy Compassion Center at [email protected], or visit them on Facebook at



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