Ensuring a holiday for everyone
AmeriCorps volunteer Teresa Ley smiled as she asked clients if they wanted “traditional” or “Latino” turkeys for thanksgiving at the Project MANA Let’s Talk Turkey thanksgiving distribution last week.
Working at Kings Beach Elementary School, Ley easily switched from English to Spanish depending on her clients’ native tongue.
“Feliz dia de Pavo!” Ley said as she handed a mother and daughter a turkey. “I’m saying happy day of turkey. I don’t know if that’s right.”
After 13 years hosting Let’s Talk Turkey, Project MANA added variety this year and made Latino Thanksgiving baskets, including rice and beans instead of cranberry sauce. Both Latino and traditional baskets include turkeys, potatoes, stuffing, apples, onions and celery.
Those who were unfamiliar with the traditions of Thanksgiving were invited to a cooking class Tuesday at the D.W. Reynolds Nonprofit Center in Incline Village, to be taught by Project MANA Executive Director George LeBard. LeBard also got a lesson at how to cook “pavo Mexicano,” which was stuffed with ground turkey, chili powder, carrots, onions, tomatoes and raisins.
“We distribute the food but a lot of people don’t know what to do with them,” LeBard said. “It’s about sharing cultures. We ate both the traditional and the Mexican turkeys (after we cooked them). I had fun because they were so into it.”
Project MANA donated more than 450 dinners at three distribution sites in the Tahoe-Truckee area ” about three times their regular weekly distribution ” thanks to local businesses and organizations in the region. The nonprofit also delivered baskets and pre-cooked meals to 45 homebound clients.
“We’ve had more families than ever” this year, said Mark Estee, one of Project MANA’s board members. “They do a phenomenal job of organizing [distribution].”
LeBard said the week before Thanksgiving is always busy, with volunteers ensuring stocks on-hand can meet demand, and reminding people to go to the distribution. Wednesday afternoon, Project MANA volunteers were frantically driving around the North Shore to make sure no one had a turkey-less holiday.
“It’s a week of chaos but everyone gets a turkey and we’re happy,” LeBard said.
With so many helped by Project MANA’s efforts, volunteers are not likely to be the only ones happy this holiday.
“Obviously the community needs it and if we didn’t do it no one would,” said AmeriCorps volunteer Elise Pope. “That’s what we’re here for.”
The turkey distribution, however, didn’t go on without a hitch. There was a scare when volunteers realized they wouldn’t have enough turkeys to distribute during the holidays.
“Everywhere had a turkey shortage, so we were a little nervous,” Ley said. “We were thinking ham and chicken as a backup. Everywhere that donates had a shortage and they didn’t have enough for their stores.”
The Kings Beach Safeway was able to provide 300 turkeys at a discounted price for Project MANA, thanks to the store’s meat department manager Jason Baron, said store manager Steve Buxon.
“Jason spent four hours on the phone to a Safeway warehouse [in Tracy, Calif.] to get them to release that quantity of turkeys,” Buxon said. “I guess they were kind of low but we told them what they were for.”
“Safeway went above and beyond and got the turkeys,” LeBard said.
For homebound clients, receiving food from Project MANA makes a traditional Thanksgiving celebration possible.
“It makes me feel taller even though I’m short,” Sally Chavez said Tuesday afternoon as she received her turkey and “fixums” from AmeriCorps volunteer Becca Logan at the Senior Apartments in Truckee.
Chavez, 65, who is usually active, has been sick recently with bronchitis and could not leave the house. Chavez said she plans to make a Thanksgiving dinner for friends in Kings Beach who do not have a home. Making dinner for a few extras will not be difficult, Chavez said, as she grew up with 12 brothers and had 10 children and was a cook for more than 300 firefighters in Oakland.
“I give out food when I can,” Chavez said. “I also like doing favors for friends like going to the bank and getting groceries.”
Logan said she enjoys delivering food to her homebound clients and building a relationship with them.
“You get to go an extra step for them,” Logan said. “Everyone’s been super grateful. They love to have someone think of them.”