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Whether it's a huge, elaborate family meal or a small, quiet gathering, the heart of Thanksgiving is breaking bread with the ones you love.

With tough economic times for so many local residents these days, having a Thanksgiving meal is a luxury they just can't afford, which is why several local nonprofits are asking for the community's help in making sure everyone is able to enjoy a hot Thanksgiving meal. Here are a few organizations seeking specific help for Thanksgiving.

Committee on the Shelterless

Petaluma-based Committee on the Shelterless is asking for help from the community in meeting the need for about 400 frozen turkeys — not thawed or cooked — by Friday, Nov. 16 for its food box program and for the Petaluma Kitchen's Thanksgiving meal at the Mary Isaak Center.

"As of Nov. 9, we have 64 turkeys and we still need about 350," said Judy Hess, COTS food program manager. "We serve nearly 400 families on our Food Box program weekly, and we expect to serve up to 250 meals at the Mary Isaak Center on Thanksgiving Day."

Frozen turkeys may be dropped off between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily at the Petaluma Kitchen located at the Mary Isaak Center, 900 Hopper St. For food safety purposes, do not bring thawed or cooked turkeys. Even though they are able to accept food prepared in commercial/professional kitchens, Health Department regulations prohibit COTS from serving food cooked in private homes.

"Since grocers limit the number of turkeys one can purchase, we need people to bring us turkeys instead of cash to purchase them," added Hess. "However, we would be happy to accept cash for all the other items."

In addition to frozen turkey, COTS is seeking donations of other traditional Thanksgiving meal items for the food box: stuffing mix, gravy, cranberry, instant mashed potatoes, canned green beans, cream of mushroom soup, canned pumpkin and canned yams.

For the Thanksgiving Day meal at the Petaluma Kitchen, COTS needs the following items: celery, No. 10 size cans of green beans, No. 10 size cans of fruit cocktail, fresh cranberries and heavy duty foil.

"We are extremely grateful for the support of the community, and we could not do this without their support," said Hess.

The Thanksgiving meal will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 22.

Those interested in volunteering opportunities should call 765-6530, ext. 111.

For more information on the turkey drive and other donations, contact Judy Hess at judyh@cots-homeless.org.

Petaluma Salvation Army

The Petaluma Salvation Army is also asking for donations of frozen turkeys and food items this week for the food boxes it will be providing to low-income families and senior citizens in Petaluma for a Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Last year, about 150 families and seniors were given a food box. In order to ensure the success of this year's program, the Petaluma SA is asking for donations of the following items (they need 150 of each item): turkeys, cans of green beans, cans of corn, packages of stuffing, 150 dozen packages of instant gravy mixes, cans of chopped black olives, cans of chicken broth, 150 pounds of coffee, cans of cranberry sauce, cans of yams, packages of marshmallows, boxes of instant potatoes, foil pans and boxes of Jello.

Donations may be dropped off at the Petaluma SA, 721 S. McDowell Blvd. between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon weekdays. Monetary donations are also being accepted.

Volunteers are also needed to help prepare the food boxes and hand them out to families. For information and/or to volunteer, contact Captain Rachel Johnson at 769-0716, ext. 102.

Petaluma People Services Center

The Petaluma People Services Center is getting ready to serve a Thanksgiving lunch to Petaluma seniors at the Petaluma Senior Center and through its Meals on Wheels program.

The Petaluma Kiwanis club holds a Thanksgiving food drive on Saturday, Nov. 17 and Sunday, Nov. 18 outside the Safeway store at 389 S. McDowell Blvd. in the Washington Square shopping center. The community is asked to help out by donating Thanksgiving meal items.

With the help of local restaurants, the Petaluma Chapter of Realtors is delivering about 300 turkeys to PPSC the Monday before Thanksgiving.

"Realtors for the last four years have done an amazing job of putting together a whole meal package for our clients," said Elece Hempel, executive director of the PPSC. "They also come and make hot cider and hand out the packages to the families. It's a special day."

PPSC is also holding it's annual Thanksgiving lunch for senior citizens on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at the Petaluma Senior Center, 211 Novak Drive. Hempel said that the Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings is prepared by chef Tracy Gentry and served with help from many volunteers, including members of the Petaluma Fire Department.

If any senior would like to attend, they should call PPSC at 765-8488 or the Petaluma Senior Center at 778-4399 for information and reservations.

Hempel said that while they have plenty of volunteers already, what PPSC can use most is monetary donations.

"What we can always use is dollars, which allows us to continue to feed people year around," said Hempel. "We are serving close to 25,000 meals this year to seniors and have distributed more than 400,000 pounds of food to hungry families and individuals through our Bounty program."

To make a monetary donations, call PPSC at 765-8488 or visit www.petalumapeople.org.

"One thing we're also asking is that local residents help us by checking in on a senior in your neighborhood," said Hempel. "This is the time of year when seniors you may know need more support. If you notice that your neighbor isn't out as much as they used to be, or they have lost a loved one recently or are having problems doing the day-to-day things they used to, please have them contact PPSC and inquire about our senior services. We will be happy to see how we can help."

Ladybug Connections

A little over a year old, the non-profit organization Ladybug Connections is seeking food donations or funds to purchase 60 to 70 hams and/or turkeys to put in the Thanksgiving food box for families being helped by the Petaluma Food Pantry.

"Last year, we didn't have enough and had to raffle them off, which broke my heart," commented Gina Drohan on the Ladybug Connections Facebook page.

The items will be handed out to families on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

To donate a frozen turkey or ham or make a monetary donation, visit www.ladybugconnections.org or e-mail Drohan at la dybugconnections@rock etmail.com.

(Contact Yovanna Bieberich at yovanna.bieberich@arguscourier.com)

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