Joy of Christmas Giveaway to hand out turkeys on Saturday, Sunday

Families can take home a turkey today in Los Banos and Sunday in Merced, just in time for the Christmas holiday as the Joy of Christmas Giveaway continues.

“This year we are able to give out 250 turkeys,” said Greg Hostetler, owner of Hostetler Ranches.

Families can begin lining up before 1 p.m. today at the Los Banos Fairgrounds, O’Banion Pavilion, 403 F St. Hostetler also plans to give away 500 turkeys and bags of almonds to needy families at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

Hostetler said he has been organizing giveaways similar to this one for more than 30 years in and around the area. The giveaway continues in memory of Hostetler’s wife, who died three years ago. “She used to help us with this,” he said. “It was her wish that we carry this on. She believed we should share our successes with the less fortunate and with the community.”

The amount of food being given away generally reflects the success of business in any given year, Hostetler said, and the longstanding tradition continues because “the community has been good to us over the years.”

Bags of almonds from Hostetler Ranches and 1-pound cheese blocks, donated by Joseph Gallo Farms, will also be handed out today.

“They heard what we were doing and the owner called and wanted to contribute,” said Andy Krotik, volunteer event coordinator.

Krotik said the turkeys are home grown in Merced County and purchased from Food 4 Less in Los Banos.

Los Banos City councilmen and a number of volunteers will be helping at the fairgrounds today, and Hostetler himself will be there greeting families. “It gives us a good feeling,” he said, “to see the people and how grateful they are.”

The Joy of Christmas Giveaway is done on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a limit of one turkey per family. For more information, call (209) 756-8787.