Volunteering to serve | SierraSun.com

Volunteering to serve

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunElizabeth McLaurin, of California Conservation Corps, grabs at can of yams while volunteering for Project MANA's "Lets Talk Turkey" food distribution at Kings Beach Elementary School Saturday.

California Conservation Corps member Cameron Wallace said he gave up his day off Saturday to hand out Thanksgiving meals in Kings Beach because he knows what it’s like to be hungry over the holidays.

“Just hunger in general is horrible. It’s horrible to have that empty feeling inside,” Wallace said as he handed a a bag packed with a Thanksgiving dinner to a family at the Kings Beach Elementary School gymnasium, and wished them a happy holiday. “Everyone deserves to have a healthy life.”

Wallace grew up in Big Bear, Calif., with two sisters and his mom, who worked three jobs on and off. He said he was raised mostly on a diet of Top Ramen and canned food.

The holidays were the hardest, he said. His family relied on donations to make those special meals.

“Now that I’m older, I’m able to give back,” Wallace said. “It feels good.”

Project MANA, or Making Adequate Nutrition Accessible, will have distributed more than 450 roasted turkeys with produce and canned pumpkin, cranberry and stuffing to families throughout the North Shore and Truckee before Thanksgiving.

Volunteers donated the food at food collection events over the weekend and Monday. Turkeys will be delivered to home-bound recipients today.

Turkeys were donated by local businesses, residents and churches, or were purchased at local grocery stores for a discounted price. Local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops hosted food drives, and other groups held fundraisers to benefit Project MANA.

“Right now, the food banks across the country ” they’re hurting,” said Executive Director George LeBard of Project MANA. “But because of the community, we’re in good shape.”

This year’s demand for turkeys is higher than in years past, as the group is distributing 19 percent more birds than last year, said Molly Messerly, community outreach coordinator.

“[Food] distribution, every week, it seems to be growing,” Messerly said. “It’s just the time of year. The ski season hasn’t started. It’s just really hard on everyone.”

Kings Beach resident Patty Ramirez said the turkey her family of six received from Project MANA will provide a meal that brings her family together for the holidays.

This year was the first time the Ramirez family was referred to Project MANA.

LeBard said that hunger in local Tahoe Truckee communities is about food insecurity, when the family does not know where they’re next meal will come from.

“When you think of hunger, you think of Africa and the child with the bloated stomach,” LeBard said. “They’re near death, and we don’t have anything like that.”

Though most Tahoe residents go to bed nourished and satisfied, some will fall asleep with an empty stomach, he said.

The holidays can exacerbate a sense of despair.

“There’s a feeling in the holidays that people want to have an abundance,” LeBard said. “I think there’s an expectation that you’re supposed to provide more if you’re the head of the family … How can they provide when it’s the holidays and they’re not making any more? It’s just the expectation.”

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