The Tustin Police Department has provided free Thanksgiving meals for more than a decade to neighborhood families in need.
And this year was no exception.
The Tustin Police Department felt it was more important than ever to provide meals to families in need, given that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many more families struggling to make ends meet.
So that is exactly what they did.
Tustin Police Department volunteers gave out 150 Thanksgiving meals — enough to feed a family of four — on Nov. 25, outside the Tustin Family & Youth Center.
Instead of handing the meals directly to the family members as they usually do, masked volunteers set the packaged meals on a chair for individuals to pick up.
“It is wonderful meal for us, especially for my husband because he is ill,” said Rosa Ramirez, who was among the recipients and has received Thanksgiving meals in the past. “I’m very grateful. It’s been really, really delicious.”
The meals were made possible by donations from the Tustin Police Support Services Association and the Tustin Police Officers Association, said Sgt. Jeff Taylor, who has organized the event for 11 years.
“This year we weren’t going to allow COVID-19 to derail our plans,” Taylor said. “So, this year more than any, I found it would be necessary to continue to reach out and help support these folks who are always there to support us. This year was especially important for us because it is an opportunity for us to continue to have relationships that we’ve worked so hard on over the years, not just with this program, but with all our programs.”
Taylor said serving others is a personal commitment.
“It’s who we are as a Tustin family,” the sergeant said. “There is something that happens to you when you are able to help somebody else. I think that is what is attractive to people.”
Taylor got the program running 11 years ago when Tustin Police Department was among eight law enforcement agencies that took part in a touch-football tournament called the Turkey Bowl.
Participating officers decided to raise money for Thanksgiving meals for people in need, and the tradition was born.
The Thanksgiving meal giveaway is just one of many community events organized by the department.
Police Chief Stu Greenberg has participated each year since becoming chief.
“It’s one of those examples of how strong the trust in the police department’s relationship is with the community,” Greenberg said. “This is a testimony to all these (volunteers) here and I’m just proud to be standing here with them.”
Police records specialist Priscila Renteria has a special reason for volunteering for the meal giveaway.
“I grew up in the area,” said Renteria, who also helps run the department’s Spanish Citizenship Academy. “So, it’s just the way I give back to the community that I partly grew up in.”
The Tustin Family & Youth Center selects families from the community who could use some extra help during the holiday season.
“It’s very touching,” Center Coordinator Barbara Guerrero said. “The families here in the community are so excited when they get to meet the officers. They show respect for each other and they feel comfortable. This is a comfort that we try to put together in this community. Every year, they look forward to this.”