Relief organizations Feed the Children and the Salvation Army gave away food and supplies to Sacramento County families Wednesday at Cal Expo.
Cars drove in two lines as volunteers loaded up the trunks and back seats.
"Thank you, you're wonderful people!" shouted a man as he drove out of the parking lot.
Each family received three boxes – one 25-pound box of nonperishable food, one 10-pound box of personal hygiene products such as shampoo, deodorant and toothbrushes, and one box sponsored by Avon, with samples of the company's products inside. The boxes can last a family a week or more.
The Salvation Army identifies families in need and offers vouchers, said public relations director Sydney Fong. Feed the Children then provides the food and supplies, he said. This is the third time the two organizations have partnered for an event, he said.
Fong said there were enough supplies for 800 families, though he was not certain late Wednesday how many had been distributed.
Lori Burris, regional director for Feed the Children, thanked the volunteers before the first families were helped, calling them the "lifeblood of this community."
Fong followed with a prayer.
"That's the first time I've prayed at an event," he said, explaining that the organization has no religious restrictions or affiliations.
"They come from all ilk," Fong said of the volunteers. "It doesn't matter what faith they are, what they really want to do is just give back."
Greg Marston, a volunteer and military veteran, said giving back is necessary for him to move forward in life.
"You can't get what you don't give out," Marston said.
Marston is in a transitional housing program through the Salvation Army that helps homeless families get off the streets, Fong said. The housing program also offers a clean and sober program, which Marston said he is "blessed" to be in.
"I would make excuses to use every day," Marston said, explaining his prior opiate abuse.
He said an ankle injury he suffered in the military led to his painkiller addiction.
When he left the service he found it difficult to find help but was referred to the Salvation Army by the Department of Veterans Affairs. He said he's been living in the transitional housing for a year as of next month.
This is the first food and supplies relief event Marston has volunteered for, he said.
The distribution events are beneficial in the Sacramento region, Burris said, citing a U.S. News and World Report list of the 10 cities nationwide in which finding work was most difficult. "Of the 10 cities listed, California has seven," she said.
On that list, Merced, Fresno, Modesto and Stockton rank first through fourth, respectively.
Burris said that for families out of work, the event can give a little relief in the hot summer months when paying the electrical bills can get in the way of paying for food.
"I'm on Supplemental Security Income and my pay is low, so I love this," said Tammy Bruffet, who went to a similar event this past Christmas.
First-timer Debbie Leander mirrored Bruffet's comments, calling the day "wonderful."