Orange County: Thanksgiving for Thousands
By Dianne Anderson
Thanksgiving isn’t just a feel-good moment for Robert Flournoy and friends.
He says he passed that stage over 20 years ago.
“Now it’s the passion to do it, and the drive to accomplish it,” said Flournoy, founder and director of the nonprofit Loaves and Fishes X 10.
It could be said that Thanksgiving happens weekly throughout harvest season as Flournoy rounds up thousands of pounds of food to distribute to local food banks and pantries. He and the other volunteers regularly drop off food bags and pray for those in need around Santa Ana housing projects.
While feeling great about the process is a natural side effect of giving back, he said fighting hunger is the mission.
This year alone, his nonprofit reaped a harvest of 60,000 pounds of food that has circled back to the community in various ways. During the year, he works with local farms to provide tons of fresh fruit and vegetables to programs that serve families in need.
On Saturday, November 17, he is also volunteering with Operation Gobble with Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) for the Thanksgiving distribution at the Santa Ana KidWorks where about 400 people will be served. Turkeys are expected to go fast. The event starts at 9:00 a.m. at Santa Ana Police Athletic and Activity League (PAAL) at 2627 W. McFadden.
“They have turkeys. I’m supporting Congressman Correa by helping him out with all the side dishes. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about,” he said.
Max Madrid, who also regularly volunteers with Flournoy, is also excited to partner at yet another massive Thanksgiving dinner held annually by Frank Garcia, which always pulls out thousands for a good meal in Anaheim.
On November 22, the 32nd Annual Thanksgiving Celebration is open for the entire community to enjoy a day of peace and thanks from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Garcia, an owner of La Casa Garcia restaurant, has been hosting the event under the “We Give Thanks Foundation.
The annual dinner has grown exponentially since he started about three decades ago.
“Frank Garcia does 18,000-20,000 people in Orange County at the Honda Center every year, he’s been doing this for many years,” said Madrid, a retired staffer for Sen. Correa.
“Robert’s helping us get food. We’re giving out to about 350-400 kids and families,” said Madrid, who worked gang prevention in the county during the 1990s.
Over the decades, at least when it comes to the level of local need, he said not much has changed.
He hears a lot about available jobs, but with the rent for a small apartment running $1,500-2,000 a month doesn’t leave much left over to carry the daily expenses.
“There’s a lot of young and old people that need help every day,” he said. “There’s a lot of heartaches. You just have to help the people.”
Pastor Mark Whitlock said their upcoming turkey giveaway is also helping fill the need this season with turkeys for Orange County and Long Beach families.
He said their recent donations are a blessing because the average turkey can easily feed a family of four people, not counting the leftovers.
“We would love to have people in need,” said Pastor Whitlock, adding that the corporate partnership is just one example of how corporations can help fill the gap with donations to support the entire community.
“Our corporate [partner] Hyundai has made it available for us to serve the least of these. On this Thanksgiving, our goal is to provide food and other products to people who are hurting, homeless and share a sense of hopelessness,” he said.
He said 200 turkeys will be given away. Those in need are encouraged to RSVP to the church for the time of distribution.
“COR Church is in God’s business of meeting the needs of people, who are looking for a ray of sunshine in this moment of darkness, we need to be a handout as well as a hand-up,” he said.
To RSVP, contact COR at 949-955-0014