For decades, the red kettle with the Salvation Army has come to symbolize donations that make a difference. In 2020, that kettle has rang louder with many people in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once again the Salvation Army stepped up to help out the community as the longtime organization held a drive-through and in person pickup of Thanksgiving boxes. The boxes contained turkeys, milk, eggs, bread, pastries, fruits and vegetables as well as other items to help people get through the holiday and difficult times.
“We just want to celebrate something, anything,” said Solano County’s Director of Social Services Cara Beir. “We want to give people joy and hope. This has been a very tough year for many people and they just want something to be joyful about.”
The two-hour event held on Tuolumne Street in Vallejo went in cycles in order to prevent big crowds. Every 15 minutes, 20 appointments (vehicles) would pull into the parking lot to receive their boxes. Anybody who hadn’t made an appointment back in October could come back to the facility later in the day to receive leftover boxes.
A steady stream of cars came into the parking lot and Salvation Army officials estimated that around 350 families had signed up this year, which was down from the 500 last year.
The Salvation Army partnered up with the Contra Costa and Solano County Food Bank’s in order to provide enough food.
“I think some people are a little nervous and maybe that’s why that number is down a little from a year ago, but the need is still there,” Beir said. “People are a little nervous when they pull up and we ask them to roll down their window, but for the most part everyone is very grateful.”
Salvation Army’s Major Randy Hartt was happy to be helping out again, but he noted that the Salvation Army has been helping out with those in need since March 16 when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
“We’re extremely tired, but it’s a great feeling to know you are impacting thousand of lives,” Hartt said. “This year I’m seeing a lot of new faces. These are people that are working very hard, but still struggling. Maybe they got laid off, and maybe there is only one bread winner in a family as opposed to two now, but it’s just been a crazy year for so many people. So in spots like this one, we’re glad to help out, especially now with the holidays when the need could be even greater.”
It was not only the staff helping out on Tuesday morning, but a few volunteers as well. Anthony Flores, in town from Orange County to see family, was happy to contribute by bagging fruits and vegetables as well as potatoes.
“I’ve been busy the last two days. Yesterday with the Meals on Wheels program and today with the Salvation Army,” Flores said. “It always feels good to lend a hand. I’m excited because it creates a purpose to help people that can’t do anything. I’d say we have filled about 10 or 11 shopping carts worth of bags with fruits and vegetables.”
Beir felt the same way.
“This is my sixth year of helping out and I’ve been doing events like this since mid March,” Beir said. “I mean, we can’t stop doing this. We’re like the grocery store for people that don’t have much money. We have to help.”