IN PICTURES: ‘The need is crazy’: Hundreds show up across Long Beach to receive free turkey

Hundreds of people lined up to receive free turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving at giveaway events across the city Saturday hosted by nonprofits and activist groups.

Hilda Gaytan, with Puente Latino Association in North Long Beach, said this year’s need is more urgent than ever.

“The need is crazy,” Gaytan said.

Her nonprofit organized an event to pass out meals to families in North Long Beach. By 6 a.m., the line of cars had formed even though the event didn’t start until 8 a.m. Once it did, Gaytan’s team gave away 150 in an hour.

Local Hearts Foundation, led by Tito Rodriguez—known as the Hood Santa—hosted its annual Diamond Supply Company turkey giveaway at MacArthur Park. The line to receive free food, clothing and personal protective equipment circled around the park and onto Atlantic Avenue.

“The need is way bigger,” Rodriguez said. “It’s triple the line.”

Hortencia Caballero, a mother in a family of five who received food from the giveaway, said in Spanish that it was “a huge help.”

“There’s little work, and with the kids not going to school I’m buying more food to feed them,” she said.

Rodriguez said over 1,000 turkeys were donated.

At Roosevelt Elementary, The Children’s Clinic of Long Beach and over 13 Cambodian and Latino nonprofits partnered to give toys, diapers, food and vouchers for Cambodian and Latino markets. The Long Beach Health and Human Services Department administered free seasonal flu shots to families.

Maria Hernandez received a free flu shot at the event. She said her daughter had just recovered from the COVID-19 virus, which affected her heavily.

Pheakdey Chea, program manager for The Children’s Clinic, said over 300 families registered for the giveaway.

In East Long Beach, the NAACP Long Beach branch hosted a senior food program to deliver food to the elderly. Naomi Rainey-Pierson, president of the group, said the NAACP is a social justice group, but health is a standard in the community.

“The effects of the coronavirus are intensified for people of color, especially Black, Brown, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American communities,” Rainey-Pierson said. “We know there are folks in need who can’t access food banks, or even the grocery store, for various reasons, so we‘re trying to help.”

Rainey-Pierson said over 80 families were supported through her group’s giveaway, which will continue on into Tuesday. The goal is to help 200 families.

“We have to come together to show compassion,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a job—we’re going to get through this together.”

Families wait for free food distribution at a turkey giveaway event in Central Long Beach on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

A woman is offered hand sanitizer as she walks into a food giveaway distribution center at MacArthur Park on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

A woman takes a bowl of food at a turkey giveaway event at MacArthur Park on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Hortencia Caballero takes food donations at a turkey giveaway event in Central Long Beach on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

A representative with the Long Beach Health and Human Services Department prepares to administer a flu vaccine to a family at a drive-through giveaway event at Roosevelt Elementary on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Volunteers at a drive-through flu clinic give food donations to families on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Pheakday Chea, program manager at The Children’s Clinic in Long Beach, speaks with a Cambodian family as they are given bags filled with board games and health information on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Naomi Rainey-Pierson, president of the NAACP Long Beach branch hands food donations to senior citizens as part of the group’s efforts to feed senior citizens on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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