For the last seven years, the Friends Uniting Neighbors Group hosts a festive Thanksgiving dinner for the residents of Anza and the surrounding areas free of charge. Volunteers organize, cook, serve and clean up the whole event; some have been involved for years.
The group typically serves about 20 turkeys and eight or 10 hams, plus all the other side dishes needed to serve 150 to 200 people for Thanksgiving. Due to limited cooking space in the Community Hall kitchen, some volunteers even prepare meats and casseroles at home and bring them ready to serve to the hall for dinner.
But this year was different. As the weeks drew closer to Thanksgiving, there was a shortage of donated turkeys and hams. Bill Donahue of the F. U. N. Group alerted local media to the plight, and an article was written, informing the public of the need.
“I was beginning to get concerned,” Donahue said.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ President Glen Holmes became aware of the shortfall and immediately reached out to Donahue.
“When President Holmes of the local The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints heard about our need for more food to put on this meal he generously gave us access to the Bishop’s Pantry. Since every LDS member helps pay to fund that pantry that access was like getting support from their entire church,” Donahue said.
The Bishop’s Pantry supplied 20 turkeys, 100 pounds of potatoes, crates of canned vegetables, boxes of stuffing and gravy mix and other important ingredients for the perfect Thanksgiving meal.
The Bishop’s Pantry, located in Murrieta, is a large warehouse with walk-in coolers and freezers, huge shelves of boxed dry goods and a grocery store on the site. The facility has about a five month supply of food stored. The whole endeavor is a communal effort, using volunteers and offering products produced by the church itself. Food is grown on church farms and canned and packaged at church facilities.
Operations Assistant Manager Eric Gutierrez explained about abundance of in-house products.
“That’s how we can be so helpful to the community. It brings cost way down,” he said.
People in need can contact the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and get assistance with dignity, he said.
“You’re in the Lord’s grocery store,” Gutierrez said. “We want people to be strengthened here, spiritually as well as temporally with the food.”
Church members pay for the food storage warehouse through tithing, the donation of one-tenth of a person’s or a family’s earnings for the support of the church and clergy. There are about 104 storehouses in the United States and another 36 in other countries.
Donahue visited the Bishop’s Pantry, Dec. 20, to pick up the generous donation. He was accompanied by church members Dennis and Marsha Nicklaus. The volunteers at the facility gave him a tour of the warehouse, describing how it all worked to assist people with food, toiletries and even cleaning supplies. Volunteers and staff loaded Donahue’s truck with the donated supplies.
“We were very happy. Our goal is to make the free community meals something that involves the whole community. Living Hope is always well represented. Christina James of Valley Gospel often provides deserts. Valley Gospel occasionally makes a cash donation. With Anza Valley Christian Fellowship and the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now stepping up, we are hopeful that others will get involved,” Donahue said.
The whole community was involved, he said.
“It was by far the largest Thanksgiving turnout we have ever had. We lost count of those coming, but the numbers were large,” Donahue said.
For more information about the Friends Uniting Neighbors Group or to get involved, contact Donald Seddon at (760) 390-5537 or email him at email@example.com.