Soboba Foundation donates turkeys

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The Soboba Foundation donates turkeys to needy families from both the Hemet and San Jacinto unified school districts. More than 650 turkeys are distributed to designated recipients Nov. 23, at San Jacinto’s district office. Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

When members of the Soboba Foundation wanted to donate Thanksgiving turkeys to needy families in the San Jacinto Valley, they realized the best way to accomplish the task was to ask the local school districts for assistance. Hemet Unified and San Jacinto Unified school districts worked alongside Soboba, Nov. 23, to ensure that 660 families enjoyed a turkey at their holiday table this year.

By accessing the districts’ parent resource staff and the parent liaisons at each school site, those most in need were easily and quickly identified, organizers said. Sites received turkeys based on its pupil enrollment with 330 eleven-plus pound turkeys designated for each district.

Nelida Gonzalez is a community liaison for San Jacinto Elementary School and said she felt fortunate to have Soboba reach out to them as they did.

“As liaisons, we help families overcome obstacles so our students can concentrate on their education,” she said. “We’ve got families going through tough times, and this was something they needed. One family had their house burn down in August, and they are still in the process of recovering from that but there are many different reasons families are in need.”

The Soboba Foundation is the philanthropic branch for the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians. The foundation provides sponsorships throughout the year, but during the holidays, the nonprofit has always reached out to the community to do more.

Soboba Foundation Vice President Dondi Silvas helped staff from San Jacinto High School distribute its 90 turkeys and assisted HUSD with its voucher redemptions.

“I’m very grateful we were able to do this,” she said. “We’re very blessed to be able to help the community and I enjoy doing it. And our annual toy drive benefits families in our valley and beyond. We expanded it this year for an extra week because we received so many requests for donations.”

There will be an additional toy drive date, Tuesday, Dec. 10, from noon to 8 p.m. Toys valued at $20 or more can be taken to the new Soboba Casino Resort Event Center and redeemed for $40 in free slot play.

Miriam Ortiz is a parent engagement specialist with Hemet Unified School District, and she worked with her team of parent liaisons to determine which families among the 28 school sites would receive a turkey donation. With more than 87% of the district’s population considered socioeconomically disadvantaged, she said every little bit helps.

Ortiz said that she also appreciated that Soboba helped transport turkeys to outlying schools in Anza and Idyllwild, as it would have created a hardship for families to drive to San Jacinto to redeem their vouchers.

“Today really kicked off the holiday spirit for me,” she said. “And it’s exciting that we have been able to strengthen our partnership with Soboba.”