And to make it easy to donate those extra items, Brentwood Regional Community Chest volunteers have strategically placed collection barrels (see barrel locations on page 17A) all over far East County.
"We want people to seek out our barrels. They are all over town," said Community Chest board member Lill Navarrette. "Everything that goes in our barrels stays right here in far East County."
Every one who receives a Community Chest Christmas basket gets a turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, carrots, apples, bread, Christmas gifts and a whole lot more, said Navarrette. "There is probably enough food in there for a couple of weeks."
The basket program originated over 30 years ago, said Navarrette, not just as a holiday program, but as a year-round food bank (a program her mom, the late Rose Pierce, began when she was president of the Delta East Coalition). It wasn't until sometime in the early '80s, she said, and with the help of Brentwood's then current mayor, Art Gonzales, that the Brentwood Regional Community Chest was born.
"The City of Brentwood kicked in $25,000 of seed money and that is how we got started," said retired local fire captain and Community Chest board member Mike Currier. "That is why it is called the Brentwood Regional Community Chest."
Despite moving out of the area 18 months ago, Currier said he still returns to Brentwood to help with the Christmas basket program. Laughing, he added, "Rose is watching. I can't not show up."
"Mike has been with Mom since the Delta East Coalition - boxing and sorting," said Navarrette. "He was right there by her side.
"My mom felt everyone needs to have a Christmas. Everybody needs food and everybody needs toys," said Navarrette. "And my dad said, 'Nobody should go hungry.'"
Even after retiring from the board three years ago, Navarrette said that her mother stayed on as an ex-officio until she got sick and passed away earlier this year.
So for over three decades Pierce's dream has lived on, as tons of food and hundreds of presents are donated to the Community Chest each holiday season. The donations are then sorted and distributed by hundreds of volunteers in just two short days.
"We are all volunteers," said Navarrette. That factor alone, she said, is what makes the Community Chest different from all the other food banks.
What also makes the Community Chest different is that Christmas presents are also included with the bounty of food that the volunteers box up.
"We tend to get lots of toys for the younger kids," said Currier. In addition to toys, he said, the Community Chest is also in need of sporting equipment, nail polishes, colognes and perfumes, and gloves, hats and scarves for the older kids.
Because there are so many organizations collecting this time of year, Navarrette said in order to make sure that your unwrapped presents or non-perishable food donations stay right here in far East County, be sure to look for barrels labeled Brentwood Regional Community Chest.
Monetary donations are also needed to help supplement items not donated and can be mailed to P.O. Box 845, Brentwood, CA 94513.
To join the Community Chest's sorting and distributing party, be sure to reserve the evening of Dec. 15 and/or the morning of Dec. 16. For more information, Navarrette can be reached at 513-1464, or call 516-1507 to reach Brentwood Regional Community Chest President Bill Hill.