The Morongo Band of Mission Indians gave away a record 15,000 free turkeys this week to non-profit groups, churches, and charities across Southern California as part of the Tribe’s 36th Annual Thanksgiving Outreach Program. The turkeys donated this year will provide nearly 300,000 holiday meals for families, seniors, and veterans in need.
Since the program began, Morongo has given away more than 175,000 turkeys, which in turn have provided an estimated 3.5 million holiday meals. “Morongo launched our Thanksgiving Outreach program more than three decades ago to help those struggling to put food on the table,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Charles Martin. “The last couple of years have presented unprecedented challenges for so many and we are humbled to be in the position to help those in need.”
Tribal members and volunteers gathered at the Morongo Community Center from Nov. 14 to 16 to distribute Thanksgiving turkeys to 116 nonprofit organizations, such as food pantries, churches, homeless shelters, schools, and veteran groups. Groups receiving turkeys hailed from Banning, Beaumont, Riverside, San Bernardino, Moreno Valley, Temecula, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Redlands, Los Angeles, and other communities.
The groups will use the turkeys to provide hot holiday meals to those in need or will distribute the birds in holiday-meal gift baskets with additional side dishes to help feed thousands of people who otherwise would not be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner this year.
“The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission is busier than ever this year, and with the economy the way it is, we’ve had to double the amount of those we are providing food boxes to,” said Darla Burkett, executive director of the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission. “We’re so grateful to the Morongo Band of Missions for their generous support in allowing us to feed hundreds of people in need this holiday season.”
Other non-profit groups who received turkeys included the Los Angeles Rescue Mission in Los Angeles, Victory Outreach in Banning, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Food Pantry in Desert Hot Springs, and Carol’s Kitchen in Beaumont, among others. The Healing & Hope for the Homeless in Los Angeles received 300 turkeys to help feed the homeless this holiday.
“During this very difficult and uncertain time, Morongo’s commitment to helping those who are less fortunate is always consistent,” said Karen Collins, Volunteer Coordinator of the Healing & Hope for the Homeless. “We are thankful for the 300 turkeys that Morongo has gifted to Healing & Hope for the Homeless for those in need of a warm and delicious holiday meal.”
Pastor Victor Archuleta of Victory Outreach Church in Banning said the 300 turkeys provided by Morongo will help struggling families enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner together. “Morongo’s Thanksgiving Outreach Program has been the gift that keeps on giving to the families in need across the San Gorgonio Pass,” Archuleta said. “The blessing of a warm meal from Morongo provides a light of hope to many who are struggling .”
For nearly four decades, thousands of veterans and military families have benefitted from the Tribe’s Thanksgiving Outreach program with turkeys donated to local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other military support groups.
“Morongo’s generosity never ceases to surprise our military families, especially during the holiday season,” said Todd Sieja, President and CEO of the Western Eagle Foundation in Temecula. “Year after year, they help provide delicious thanksgiving meals for our veterans to enjoy and share with their loved ones.”
To receive turkeys, participating groups submitted applications to the Tribe and were notified over the summer that they had been selected. For organizations interested in receiving turkeys next Thanksgiving, applications for next year are due in spring 2023.