Kathy Lawrence woke up Saturday morning while it was still dark out, grabbed her furry pink leopard-print hat, heavy jacket and a scarf and gloves and headed for the Los Banos Fairgrounds. The Los Banos resident wanted to secure a spot in line for a turkey at the Joy of Christmas Giveaway sponsored by Hostetler Ranches.
“This is a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “It’s so generous. A lot of us seniors, once we pay our rent and our utilities and put gas in our car don’t have money to buy meat.”
The giveaway provided 250 14-pound turkeys and packages of almonds from the orchards of Hostetler Ranches to community members in need of a holiday meal. Also given out were 1-pound cheese blocks, donated especially for Saturday’s giveaway by Joseph Farms.
Greg Hostetler, owner of Hostetler Ranches, has been organizing giveaways similar to this one for more than 30 years, he said. The are in memory of his wife, who died three years ago. He said it was her wish to carry on the tradition to help others.
Lawrence expressed her gratitude and appreciation in explaining how much receiving the turkey meant to her.
“We can prepare these turkeys and package the meat separately so the meat can last us for two months or more,” she said. “That way I can have protein for my meals.”
Hostetler said the amount of food that’s donated generally reflects the success of business in that particular year, and since 2013 has been a good year for him, he was able to give back to the community of Los Banos in a big way.
Hostetler, a number of volunteers, City Council members, Mayor Mike Villalta and City Manager Steve Carrigan handed out 145 turkeys in less than 15-minutes.
“I think it’s great,” Hostetler said. “Some people have a gleam in their eye.”
Volunteer event coordinator Andy Krotik said the turkeys - raised in Merced County - were purchased from the local Food 4 Less.
“It’s just wonderful,” Lawrence said. “People are helping each other and that’s what God wants us to do. I think that’s what he put us on earth for.”