For the past 36 years, the Pasadena Jaycees have steadfastly ensured that Thanksgiving is a time of joy and abundance for local families in need through their cherished initiative, Operation Gobbler.
The community-wide project, which started in 1987 in collaboration with Friends In Deed, has become a symbol of compassion and unity in the Pasadena area.
As part of the Pasadena Jaycees’ broader commitment to community service, Operation Gobbler aims to provide meals for hundreds of local families this Thanksgiving, building on the legacy of generosity that has characterized the project since its inception.
“This year, there was a target of 325 families, and we had 325 sign up,” Tim Nistler, Director of the Food Pantry Program at Friends In Deed, said. “The event aligns with our yearly food distributions, and if we have additional turkeys left over, we accommodate families that may have missed the registration.”
Operation Gobbler will distribute the Thanksgiving meals on Sunday, Nov. 19, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Justine Gray, President of the Pasadena Jaycees, said the organization has so far raised about $1,300 from individual donors in the area, with additional funds from grants and businesses.
“Dog Haus, through both their Pasadena locations, has generously agreed to donate the entirety of rolls for the project,” Gray said. “Rising cost of food is definitely a factor; it costs more to provide the same items as previous years. But through generous donations from the community and funding from businesses, we are thankful to still be able to serve a large number of families this year.”
Both Nistler and Gray say volunteers are playing a crucial role in the success of Operation Gobbler.
“Most of the volunteers are part of the Jaycees organization, with a partnership that spans over 30 years,” he continued. “On the Friends In Deed side, we have our staff and one or two volunteers to assist. We have about 15 volunteers signed up, and they will help with various tasks such as loading and unloading turkeys, checking in families, and distributing items.”
Gray said volunteers will help with loading and unloading turkeys and other items, checking in families and distributing the items along with Friends in Deed staff. On the other hand, families who wish to obtain Thanksgiving meals must sign up in advance through Friends in Deed and must be on the signup list at check in in order to receive the items, she said.
Nistler said the Friends in Deed Food Pantry is seeing significantly more people coming for food every week than last year, a sign that the economic challenges are real.
“Our goal is to provide as much food as we can to the community,” Nistler said.
Gray said the community can help best by donating through the Jaycees’ website, but in-kind donations will continue to be accepted at Friends in Deed through Saturday, Nov. 18. Donations in-kind can include turkey, stuffing, and canned goods.
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