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'We can come together for good things': North Rotary passes out Thanksgiving boxes to Oildale familes

Bakersfield man Steven Tracy often worries about where to obtain his next meal. He desperately awaits the next paycheck so his family can eat properly.

But on Thanksgiving — a holiday that revolves around a hearty feast — his table will be laden with delicious food thanks to the Bakersfield North Rotary's 21st annual Thanksgiving Basket project.

“The world seems very divided,” 30-year-old Tracy said. “This shows there are good people out here, who want to help. We can come together for good things.”

Cars lined up outside the Standard Middle School multipurpose room Wednesday morning, filling North Chester Avenue. Volunteers — including Rotarians and students — efficiently dropped off turkeys, potatoes, cranberries, apple pies, rice, beans and more into cars filled with families hoping for a proper Thanksgiving meal.

Anthony Fariss, 13, heaved a box into a car trunk. He hand-selected a turkey wrapped in yellow wire, plopped it into a car and waved goodbye to the family.

“Watching the people go away with a smile on their face,” he said, is his best memory from this event.

About 350 to 400 boxes were passed out Wednesday. The members gathered Tuesday to assemble the parcels to distribute them with little contact to drivers. North Rotary member Sheri Horn-Bunk said the group wanted to remain cognizant of COVID-19 concerns.

“Depending on how big the family is, (the boxes) should last a week,” Horn-Bunk said.

The families were pre-selected by the Standard School District, she added. Anyone can apply, and an independent group selects recipients.

Horn-Bunk has participated in the event for almost 13 years. She recalls a time when a person came by after the volunteers packed up and prepared to leave the area. A teenager asked her if they had any leftovers. The Rotarian handed him some food, and the boy revealed his family wouldn’t have eaten without the donation.

“I’ll never forget that,” Horn-Bunk said.

Companies also donated food and boxes. Chevron, Wonderful Citrus, Valley Strong Credit Union and Varner Brothers were among some of the helpers, according to a news release from North Rotary.

Volunteers said they benefited from giving back to the community. North High School senior Chelsie Powers said she sees fellow classmates drive by, which fills her with thanks. Thanksgiving to her revolves around serving the community.

David Sharp said high rent and piled-up bills make life difficult. Last year, he waited to pay his bills for about a couple of months to feed his family during Thanksgiving. This year, he won’t have to worry about money and can provide for his wife and two kids.

Michelle Shannon swung by to pick up some food for her mother, daughter and grandbaby. She said this event helps out “tremendously” because she hurt herself and doesn’t have a job.

Without this food, their Thanksgiving meal would have been a TV dinner.

“This helps out a lot,” Shannon said, tearing up. “(Life’s) just hard.”

You can reach Ishani Desai at 661-395-7417. You can also follow her at @idesai98 on Twitter. 

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