Tustin PD delivers more than 100 turkey dinners to the needy

By Jaimee Lynn Fletcher

More than 100 Tustin families enjoyed Thanksgiving meal thanks to a Tustin PD community outreach program to benefit the needy.

The Tustin Police Department on Wednesday, Nov. 25,  delivered dozens of dinners to low-income families at the Tustin Family and Youth Center.

The turkey dinner program started eight years ago when Tustin PD Sgt. Jeff Taylor organized an annual flag football tournament that drew teams from law enforcement agencies across the county.

Blanca Lopez of Tustin and her two kids Jared Guerrero, 4, and Jacqueline Guerrero, 8, join the rest of the line in applauding the Tustin Police as they get ready to hand out free turkeys for those in need the day before Thanksgiving. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Blanca Lopez of Tustin and her two kids Jared Guerrero, 4, and Jacqueline Guerrero, 8, join the rest of the line in applauding the Tustin Police as they get ready to hand out free turkeys for those in need the day before Thanksgiving.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The money raised each year would buy turkey dinners for families in need.

Although the tournament disbanded in 2013, TPD wanted to make sure they continued to provide Thanksgiving meals.

City employees, the Tustin Police Officers’ Association and the Tustin Police Support Services Association this year helped raise more than $2,600 to buy 123 turkey dinners. HoneyBaked Ham also donated $1,000 for the meals.

“This all started because we just wanted to give back to the community,” said Taylor, whose four children also helped with the event by donating money they saved to buy several dinners. “I think we’re all blessed here and if we can turn around and help someone else, that’s a great thing.”

Taylor added getting to know the residents who live in the area near the center at Newport and Sycamore avenues is an important part of the outreach effort.

“We want to make the residents comfortable coming to us because for some in the past, there has been a fear (of police),” Taylor said. “As a police department, I think we have done a good job of breaking down that fear so that they’ll come to us when they need us.”

Imelda Andrea of Tustin and her granddaughter, 3-year-old Lia Gonzalez, receive a free turkey from the Tustin PD the day before Thanksgiving at the Tustin Family & Youth Center. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Imelda Andrea of Tustin and her granddaughter, 3-year-old Lia Gonzalez, receive a free turkey from the Tustin PD the day before Thanksgiving at the Tustin Family & Youth Center.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Pedro Camunez, program assistant at the center, said the Thanksgiving dinners are just one way the Tustin community partners to benefit local families.

“Some of our families have limited income and are not even able to buy food,” he said. “When families are struggling, they can come to us. Our main goal is just to help the people who need it.”

The line of families snaked through the small parking lot at the center as uniformed officers passed out bags of HoneyBaked Ham meals, complete with traditional Thanksgiving fixings.

Eight-year-old Jacqueline Guerrero said while she loves turkey, she’s most looking forward to spending time her with cousins.

“My favorite part about Thanksgiving is that we all get to be together,” she said.

Tustin resident Marta Garcia said she thought the police were generous and she appreciated their work in making sure families like hers were supported this holiday.

“I am so grateful to receive this food for Thanksgiving Day,” Garcia said. “I thank the police so much.”

Jolanda Mendoza of Tustin receives a free turkey from the Tustin PD the day before Thanksgiving at the Tustin Family & Youth Center. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Jolanda Mendoza of Tustin receives a free turkey from the Tustin PD the day before Thanksgiving at the Tustin Family & Youth Center.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin PD Officer Michael Carter hands a free turkey to Jessica Moreno of Tustin and her daughter Kaylee Mota, 16 months, the day before Thanksgiving at the Tustin Family & Youth Center. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Tustin PD Officer Michael Carter hands a free turkey to Jessica Moreno of Tustin and her daughter Kaylee Mota, 16 months, the day before Thanksgiving at the Tustin Family & Youth Center.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC