A generous repast

Mission Solano distributes 600 meals to needy families

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

FAIRFIELD - Hundreds of families will enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner this year after more than 600 boxed holiday meals were given out Tuesday, compliments of Mission Solano and community donations.

Groups of people lined the long driveway at the doors of Bransford Elementary School before 11 a.m., anxiously awaiting a donated meal of turkey and dry goods that could feed a family of five.

To several, the sight brought a smile knowing some of the county's less fortunate would have a meal on Thursday. To others, such as Don Hall, director of development at Mission Solano, it was a reminder of the work that needs to be done in the county.

"It's a great feeling, but it's also sobering. There's so much need out there and so many people in need," he said. "You can run the numbers, but when you see the faces they're no longer tickets, they are people."

These were people, some referred by the Goodwill, Salvation Army or the Community Action Council, who came with babies in strollers or broken-down shopping carts. They came as couples, singles with children and several, mainly women, who came with the barrier of speaking no English.

Yet, regardless of the reasons that led them to get a ticket for a free holiday meal, the group arrived at the school with the commonality of needing a dinner for Thanksgiving and were thankful.
"I'm so grateful for this meal. My husband just got laid off and the situation at home is tough," said Patty Arabia, who frequents Mission Solano on occasion for help. "Layoffs cause great gaps and we can't make the bills. It makes things hard."

For Doris Royal, a Fairfield resident who donned a smile after picking up her box, the meal meant sharing Thanksgiving with her family.

"My money only comes once a month and I didn't have the money for Thanksgiving and I needed to feed my grandkids," she said. "What's in this box will do it."

Local agencies who work with Mission Solano Rescue Mission referred clients earlier this month to the annual event. As a result, more than 600 requests for assistance came through the doors of the homeless shelter in the past weeks, up 30 percent from last year. And Mission Solano accommodated all.

"This is what keeps my energy going, seeing faces and families being helped where the community can touch lives of the less fortunate," said Ron Marlette, founding executive director of Mission Solano Rescue Mission.

Much of the food, including 692 turkeys, were purchased at WinCo Foods with community pledges from the Mission's "Radio-a-thon" on Thursday, which totaled $26,000.

"We were really blessed," Marlette said of the Radio-a-thon. "It was fantastic to see the community involved. We're excited to be the conduit from the community to the homeless and poverty stricken."

Leftover funds from the Radio-a-thon will be spent on Thursday's meal for Mission Solano clients, boxed meals that volunteers from the homeless shelter will take to homeless encampments and motels, plus a Christmas meal in December.

People from the community filled the Multipurpose Room at the school. Men from Travis Air Force Base helped disperse the boxes while local volunteers kept the line moving in an orderly fashion.

"They needed help and I was here. It is a great turnout," said Dale Judd, a retired senior who has been volunteering at Mission Solano for a few months. "It's nice to help out the community."

Within 35 minutes, hundreds had picked up their boxes and turkeys and were on their way home, knowing they would have a warm meal to share on Thursday.

Marlette, who sat outside briefly to watch the people leave, seemed to embrace the moment with heartfelt thoughts.

"These are times I love to watch, seeing the fruits of our labor providing what they need and getting it to our people," he said. "This was fantastic."