By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Operation Gobble helps families keep Thanksgiving tradition

November 26, 2014/Ventura County Star

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - Shelley McGee expressed her gratitude for the free turkey she received at the Samaritan Center in Simi Valley that will help her family celebrate Thanksgiving.

“You work all your life, and then life changes and you need a little bit of help,” said McGee, of Simi Valley. “Thanksgiving’s the time for family to come together and we need a lot of prayers and closure and happiness together.”

McGee received one of 200 free turkeys Tuesday through a program called Operation Gobble launched by the California American Water Co., which donated the birds for distribution through the office of state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills.

One hundred turkeys were donated to the Samaritan Center, 50 to Simi Church of Christ and 50 to Catholic Charities Moorpark Pantry Plus.

Operation Gobble is a joint philanthropic venture between California water companies and state legislators with a goal of delivering an estimated 30,000 turkeys to at-risk families throughout the state this Thanksgiving, said Brian Barreto, California American Water Southern California external affairs manager.

Operation Gobble raises awareness of the issue of hunger in California while helping those who need it most, Pavley said.

“This year more than ever, it’s important we all reach out to others in the community to ensure that no Californians go without this Thanksgiving season,” Pavley said.

Anna Maria Reyes, of Simi Valley, was one of the first in line at the Samaritan Center on Tuesday to receive a turkey.

“The problem ... and why I’m here, is financial,” Reyes said. “It’s hard for my husband and me. This is a special dinner for Thanksgiving.”

At the Samaritan Center, there are more requests than ever for turkeys this holiday season, said Betty Eskey, executive director.

“It’s really about trying to be a family in a traditional way, and they are reaching out for the traditions of what they’re used to,” Eskey said. “The last few years have been so hard for them, and the judgment that comes from them staying in this poverty level affects them emotionally and takes away their hope. When they come here, they walk away with hope.”

Bert White, a congregation member at Simi Church of Christ in charge of benevolence activities, said the church purchased all the makings for a Thanksgiving dinner to go with the turkeys that will be distributed mostly to seniors.

“These turkeys are always appreciated by those receiving them,” White said.

Patricia Calderon, program coordinator at Catholic Charities Moorpark Pantry Plus, said she is grateful to California American Water Company and Pavley for the donation.

“The 50 turkeys will be distributed to families in need in our community and will help make their Thanksgiving holiday a little brighter,” Calderon said. “While the turkeys will not solve the problems that many of these people are facing in their lives it at least gives them hope that they are not alone ... while allowing them the dignity of enjoying a nice meal.”

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