Each year, hundreds of volunteers in East County donate their time and money to help their less fortunate neighbors enjoy the holiday season. From Turkey dinners to Christmas gifts, local nonprofits work year-round for this special time. Despite restrictions in place due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, volunteers are already gathering forces to maintain their traditions in a socially distant fashion.
The Friends of Oakley Basket Program is moving forward this year, said board of directors secretary Donna Lagano. All participants are working to stay informed of and within CDC guidelines, making an effort to minimize touches. School and business closures have affected donations, though.
“Our donation bins have not been distributed throughout the city as they usually are,” Lagano said. “A lot of our donations come through the Oakley School District and the schools aren’t open. But the teachers have still been very supportive.”
“With so many people out of work this year due to coronavirus, more of our community members need a little help this holiday season,” said Martinez. “Friends of Oakley and Rotary Club of Oakley have partnered to make the season a little brighter by providing holiday baskets of food and toys to families in Oakley and Bethel Island.”
Friends of Oakley hopes to meet its goal of helping 300 families this year with food and gifts. It is accepting donations of time, money and presents. For more information, visit https://friendsofoakley.wordpress.com or https://www.facebook.com/friendsofoakley, or call 925-625-7945. Interested Oakley residents can register for the program on Nov. 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Les Schwab Tire Center, 89 Carol Lane, in Oakley. Please be prepared to show your ID with local address on it or proof of residence in Oakley or Bethel Island.
In Brentwood, three groups have teamed up to bring some holiday cheer to community members. Rotary Club of Brentwood, Brentwood Strong and the Brentwood Regional Community Chest (BRCC) are pooling their resources to gather donations and volunteers to provide gifts and meals to families in need.
“It’s always an honor to serve, and that’s the real silver lining through this COVID, seeing our community come together to support those in greatest need,” said Seana Fippin, founder of Brentwood Strong. “And it is filling a need for the volunteers who are able to volunteer as well. I would highly encourage the community to get involved in any way they can.”
Fippin noted Brentwood Strong is working with the City of Brentwood to provide turkeys for the Senior Turkey raffle and the rotary club to provide cards for homebound seniors to help lift their spirits. A senior parade and food distribution event are also in the works.
For more information, to donate or to volunteer, call 925-513-0000. Toys for the holiday toy drive can be dropped at Red Box Business Solutions, 8395 Brentwood Blvd., Suite A, in Brentwood.
Soroptimist International of the Delta is working with the Brentwood groups to provide gift cards to teens in families who are receiving food and gifts from the Brentwood Regional Community Chest.
“Every year we give gift cards for the teens, and we help with the packing and sorting and that process,” said Soroptimist president Audry Gonsalvez.
For more information or to donate, visit https://www.siofthedelta.com.
Delta Community Services, also in Brentwood, is ramping up for the biggest time of year. The group identifies families in need through its thrift shop and provides Thanksgiving dinners in November — and Christmas dinners and gifts in December — for approximately 50 to 100 families. Volunteers shop for the families and provide everything. This year, the drop-off and pick-up will both be run as a drive-thru to conform to county and state health mandates.
“Donors are instructed what type of food to buy — our Hispanic families often prefer chicken to turkey — and will drop off food in a drive by and then later, we invite the families to drive by and pick up their boxes,” said Michael O’Connor. “It’s impersonal, but it’s COVID, and it’s still rewarding . . . COVID has decimated some of our families this year.”
To adopt a family through Delta Community Services, call 925-634-8275.
The Kiwanis Club of Oakley recently chartered in October. Since the group is so new, President Angela Lowrey said they don’t have a holiday giving plan this year but look forward to having a program in the future.
“Kiwanis Club of Oakley is excited to have just received their 501(c)3 and is currently looking at joining other Oakley service clubs and the city of Oakley to support programs this year and looking to expand community programs in 2021,” Lowrey said. “We are really committed to supporting families and children in the Oakley community.
The Discovery Bay Marina is hosting a holiday toy drive and is accepting donated unwrapped toys to be given to The Delta Community Services Agency and the Brentwood Community Chest. Items can be dropped off at the 5901 Marina Road through Dec. 13.
The Byron Delta Lions Club has a special Advent project its working on in partnership with the Delta Christian Community Food Pantry. Members are filling boxes with 21 items – one for each day from Dec. 1 to Dec. 21 – to help create a special Christmas dinner to be given to families in the area.
“So every day we are putting something in the box, and then we can throw in extras, as well, like candy,” said Linda Barbara, the group’s coordinator.
The boxes are being decorated like gifts to bring extra holiday cheer this season, and will be distributed in a touch-free fashion just in time for Christmas.
On Dec. 8, the group will make, package and deliver Christmas lunches to clients of the Lions Center for the Visually Impaired in Pittsburg. They are also collecting toys for the Brentwood Regional Community Chest toy drive. For more information, or to donate, call 408-621-1763 or visit https://e-clubhouse.org/sites/byron_delta/index.php.
Debbie Finnegan, president of the Discovery Bay Lions Club said her group – with the help of the Discovery Bay Safeway – is providing Thanksgiving meals to 61 at-risk families from the Byron Unified School District. Next month, they will collaborate with the Byron Delta Lions on their Advent project, collecting boxes of food for local families.
“We are collecting items in front of the French Flea, a boutique shop on the marina,” said Finnegan. “There will be a barrel in front of the store to help collect items for the Advent calendar.”
For more information, call 925-240-3486 or visit https://discoverybaylions.com/.
The Brentwood Lions Club will pass out gift cards to families in need for their Thanksgiving dinners, said President Dave Ciruli. Members have also contributed food to HOPE House in Brentwood and St. Vincent de Paul. Plans for the rest of season are still being made. For more information, call 925-587-3783 or visit https://eclubhouse.org/sites/brentwoodca/index.php.