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Mission needs 100 more turkeys to feed homeless

What would Thanksgiving dinner be without turkey? Herb Opalek is hoping the Merced County Rescue Mission doesn't have to serve a turkey-less holiday dinner to its 2,500 guests this year.

Opalek, the mission's executive director, said the mission needs 110 turkeys at a minimum -- at this point they have about a dozen turkeys and the promise of a few more.

"Times are tough," Opalek said. "People are struggling to put food on their own plates. We have more foreclosures and the stock market is down again. There are more people in the need of a holiday meal this year across the country."

Pete Torrence, director of operations for the rescue mission, believes people will come through with the turkeys. The mission also needs vegetables, garbage bags, cranberry sauce, pies, paper plates and plastic forks.

"I'm getting a little concerned but I'm confident the turkeys will come in. We have a ton of volunteers; that's not a problem," Torrence said.

As well as people from Merced, Opalek is expecting diners from Planada and Los Banos at this year's Thanksgiving dinner at the American Legion Hall on West Main Street. The dinner will be held from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The Thanksgiving meal will be traditional, with turkey, sweet potatoes, vegetables, rolls, pie and beverages.

The mission also gives out about 2,000 pounds of clothing and needs donations of winter clothes.

Needed items include women and children's clothing, shoes, socks and underwear.

Many people may have other things on their minds besides the holidays this year. Donations to nonprofit organizations are down 10 to 20 percent, Opalek laments.

If need be, the mission can pick up donations for its holiday dinner and clothing giveaway.

Turkeys are needed by Nov. 19, Opalek said. The mission's telephone number is 209-722-9269.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or