BARSTOW With Thanksgiving a little more than a week away, local charities report that they have seen a significant drop in the number of donations for community meals and baskets this year. Here's how you can help:

Holiday Meals and Thanksgiving baskets One of the biggest charitable events for the Thanksgiving season is Holiday Meals, where hundreds of needy families and residents have food delivered to their doors by volunteers.

According to Maurice Lessard, nutrition director for the Barstow Senior Center, donations of both food and money have dropped significantly from last year, which he says is due to the economy.

Lessard said that last year, 500 baskets were given out before Thanksgiving and 1,500 meals were delivered to needy residents on Thanksgiving Day. This year, Lessard said he only expects to be able to give out 200 baskets and 800 meals because of the low number of donations.

Lessard said the greatest need right now is for monetary donations, so that any items still needed can be purchased in bulk at a cheaper price. Any extra donations will be rolled over to Christmas Holiday Meals. Please make checks out to Holiday Meals.

Food donations still needed include: canned yams, green beans, corn, rice, dried pinto beans, boxed mashed potatoes, stuffing, chicken broth, and gravy mix. Donations can be dropped off at the Barstow Senior Center, 555 Melissa Ave.
Lessard said the Senior Center is also looking for volunteers to put together and deliver the baskets this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers are also needed on Thanksgiving from 8 a.m. to about noon.

To request a meal, call 760-252-1513.

Desert Manna Ministries For Sheri Randolph, executive director of Desert Manna, the past two months have showed a significant drop in the number of people donating to the homeless shelter.

Like other organizations, Randolph blames the economy. She says donations are now needed more than ever, because she has seen a 6 percent increase in the number of people needing some type of assistance, and she doesn't think there will be a decrease anytime soon.

"If (Barstow residents) are lucky enough not to have to worry about food or their rent, they're blessed," said Randolph.

Randolph said that despite an overall drop in donations, there has been an increase in donations from different Barstow Unified School District schools in the past few weeks as they hold their own cans and coats drives.

Desert Manna will be having its Thanksgiving Feast on Sunday, and are accepting donations of frozen turkeys until Thursday, said Randolph. In addition, the shelter is seeking donations of pasta, rice, beans, canned meat, coats and money for its Cans and Coats drive, as well as the use or donation of a refrigerated truck to move perishable items.

Donations can be taken to Desert Manna at 201 N. First Ave., or call (760) 256-7797, or visit www.justgive.org.

Straw Hat Pizza's Thanksgiving Dinner Every year, hundreds of Barstow residents flock to Straw Hat Pizza to enjoy a free community meal on Thanksgiving.

Jeff Eason Jr., who runs the event each year with the Barstow Police Activities League, said last year they fed about 1,000 Barstow residents and this year he expects the number to increase to 1,200 despite receiving less in donations.

Eason said that the biggest need right now is for monetary donations before Nov. 21 or prepared side dishes brought to Straw Hat Pizza between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving, as well as cooked turkeys and desserts. Donations of raw turkeys will be accepted until Nov. 21.

Food donations can be taken to Straw Hat Pizza at 1930 E. Main St.. Monetary donations will be taken at Barstow Police Department, 220 E. Mountain View St., Straw Hat Pizza, or Phantom Sports, 1860 E. Main St. Please make checks out to Barstow PAL.

Volunteers are also needed to help clean up from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com