Morongo turkey giveaway helps provide over 225,000 Thanksgiving meals

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Volunteer Jason McFadden of Fountain of Life Temple Church in Banning helps package turkeys being donated by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Courtesy photo

MORONGO INDIAN RESERVATION – The Morongo Band of Mission Indians distributed 12,500 free turkeys this week to help provide holiday meals to families, seniors and veterans in need as part of the tribe’s 34th annual Thanksgiving Outreach Program.

This year’s program will once again help nonprofit groups, churches and charities provide more than 225,000 holiday meals across Southern California. Recognizing the growing need across the region, the tribe increased the number of turkeys it donated this year by 25% over past years.

Since the program’s creation, Morongo has given away nearly 145,000 turkeys, which in turn have provided an estimated 2.75 million holiday meals.

“The roots of Morongo’s Thanksgiving Outreach program stretch back decades to a time when our tribe sought to help others even as we ourselves faced adversity,” Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said. “This year, we continue our legacy of giving by providing tens of thousands of holiday meals to those in need across the region.”

Volunteers Isabella Schieffer, Curtis Gardner and Jackie Rankin of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1508 in Wildomar help package some of the 12,500 turkey donated by Morongo. Courtesy photo

Dozens of tribal members and volunteers gathered Nov. 18-19, at the Morongo Community Center to distribute the Thanksgiving turkeys to 114 nonprofit organizations such as churches, food pantries, schools, veteran groups and homeless shelters from across Southern California. Groups receiving turkeys hailed from Banning, Beaumont, Riverside, San Bernardino, Moreno Valley, Temecula, Indio, 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 food baskets with all the fixings to help feed thousands of people who would otherwise not be able to afford and enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.

Nonprofit groups receiving turkeys ranged from the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission in Indio to the Los Angeles Rescue Mission, the Galilee Center in Mecca, the Western Eagle Foundation in Temecula, Victory Outreach Church in Banning, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Riverside and many others.

“For years, our rescue mission has relied on the generosity of the Morongo tribe to help provide hope and hot meals to thousands in the Coachella Valley at Thanksgiving,” said Darla Burkett, executive director of the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, which received 400 turkeys from the tribe.

The Rev. Victor Archuleta of Victory Outreach Church in Banning said the 200 turkeys being provided by Morongo will help struggling families who might not otherwise be able to share a Thanksgiving dinner.

“What a tremendous blessing it has been to have turkeys donated by Morongo every year. Having a reliable partner during the holidays gives our church and members hope as we serve families in our San Gorgonio Pass communities,” Archuleta said.

Hundreds of veterans and military families benefited from the tribe’s Thanksgiving Outreach program, which provided more than 300 turkeys this year to local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other military support groups.

“Morongo has always stood by our community’s veterans and their families who have served our nation and sacrificed so much. Through our partnership, the Western Eagle Foundation will be to help military families share and enjoy holiday meals with their loved ones,” Todd Sieja, president of the Western Eagle Foundation in Temecula, said.

The Los Angeles Mission received 250 birds to help feed the homeless this holiday. Herb Smith, president of the Los Angeles Mission, said the Morongo donation will help feed those on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

“The Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ ongoing support of our programs have been critical in achieving our shared mission to provide comfort and dignity to homeless populations those in the greatest need. Because of the tribe’s continued giving, we can serve and bless thousands of homeless families and individuals again this year,” Smith said.

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 year, applications for next year are due May 7, 2020.

Submitted by The Morongo Band of Mission Indians.