Annual turkey giveaway brings smiles to thousands in Oak Park

An annual Thanksgiving scene was played out again Monday on the streets of Sacramento when thousands of people waited for a free turkey and the trimmings from Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

Families lined the sidewalks in Oak Park, some of them using folding chairs while waiting in the long queue. They met new friends and strained their necks to see if the line really did wrap around the corner.

And, when they finally reached the parking lot where the mounds of canned food, boxes of dressing and turkeys were stored, they were invariably greeted with a smile by someone like volunteer Andrea Swift, a Pacific Gas and Electric employee.

“I’m loving it,” said Swift after she handed out a turkey to Leatrice Remo, 72, of Sacramento. “It’s very fulfilling.”

The annual turkey giveaway at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services is made possible by donations, including many who drove up to the food bank Friday and dropped off the big birds.

Last year, 6,039 turkeys were donated. This year, 7,458 of the birds were donated by individuals and companies for distribution at the food bank at 3333 Third Ave. in Sacramento.

“I’m picking up for a group of ladies, about seven of them, over the age of 70 who need help with the food,” said Remo. “I told them I’ll go down and stand in line. Everybody’s money is low, so this will be a helping for them.”

She said one lady will bake the pie, another will cook the dressing and another will handle the turkey.

“This is awesome, what the food bank does,” said Remo. “A lot of people are out of work. I have been looking for a job.”

Remo said about half of her $1,100 monthly income from Social Security goes to rent.

Along with a turkey in a reusable tote bag, recipients got two bags of side dishes with stuffing, rice, beans, canned vegetables, soup, gravy, pasta, sauce and fruit.

“People were very grateful and very appreciative,” said Kelly Siefkin, a food bank spokeswoman.

A line had already formed by 7 a.m. In the line early was south Sacramento resident Alonzo Jennings.

“This helps me out,” said Jennings, 67, who said he is on disability with bad knees.

People were given numbers in line. Jennings was No. 120.

“I got here at 4:30 a.m.,” he said. “I needed this turkey and the trimmings, everything I need for a Thanksgiving dinner.”