"It's been a tough year for a lot of people," said BRCC President Bill Hill. "The fact that they supported their neighbors to the extent they did speaks very well for our community."
Hundreds of people came down to Brentwood Elementary School on Friday to help sort several tons of food, then pack it in boxes to be distributed on Saturday. There was so much help, in fact, that the tasks were accomplished in record time.
"I brought the family down to help at about 8 p.m., and it was just about finished," said Lee Garcia. "We only ended up packing about a box each, but that's OK. I'd rather see a ton of people here and not have too much to do than to find out only a handful of people care enough to show up and help."
The story was much the same on Saturday, when volunteers returned in droves to help distribute the food and toys that had been prepared.
"I'm so proud of this community," Brock Miller said as he gazed about the crowded parking lot looking for a way he could help. "It really shows how much people here want to give, no matter what it is they end up doing." For Miller, it ended up being breaking down cardboard boxes and shouting "Merry Christmas!" as recipients drove past.
Like many charities, the BRCC was preparing to deal with a possible shortage of food and toys this holiday season. In the final days of collections, however, a torrent of toys and a flurry of food donations poured in. The largess allowed the BRCC to extend help to 100 more families than planned, and provide assistance to other local charities such as Shepherd's Gate women's center, a program on Bethel Island that had come up short, and the Kaleidoscope cancer outreach group in Byron.
Keeping donations in the far East County region the BRCC serves is important, said board member Lillian Pierce, daughter of founder Rose Pierce, who passed away last year. It's what has helped keep the program thriving, and something that Rose had in mind from the outset.
"I got a lot of comments this year about how my mom would have liked what was going on," Lillian said. "I think she would be very pleased that the program is continuing."
As always, critical in-kind support was provided by the Brentwood Union School District, the City of Brentwood and the Brentwood Rotary Club. Large donations from organizations such as the Delta Association of Realtors, Brentwood Self Storage (which also donates storage for BRCC barrels the rest of the year) and Precision Cabinets (which provided 20 brand-new bikes) helped make it possible to expand the effort and still stay within the $12,000 annual budget.
"Personally, I'm never really surprised that we get the support we do," said Hill. "I'm delighted about it, but that's the general fabric of our community. People want to help local families."
Note: Rick Lemyre is vice president of the BRCC.