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Morongo’s Annual Turkey Program Tops 1.3 Million Meals Served

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians began distributing 10,000 free turkeys on Monday, Nov. 17, to charities and churches that will use the donated birds to provide an estimated 150,000 Thanksgiving meals to families, seniors and veterans across Inland Southern California and beyond.
With this year’s donation, Morongo’s annual Thanksgiving Outreach program will have provided an estimated 1.3 million holiday meals to the less fortunate over the past 29 years.
“For nearly three decades, Morongo’s Thanksgiving Outreach program has helped feed the less fortunate during this holiday season and we intend to continue the tradition for many years to come,” Morongo Tribal Councilman Tom Linton said. 
To date, the Morongo program has provided more than 90,000 turkeys to help feed those in need. In 2012, the tribe began donating 10,000 birds a year. 
On Monday, dozens of tribal members and volunteers arrived at the Morongo Community Center to help sort truckloads of frozen turkeys for distribution to about 100 nonprofit organizations, churches and social programs from across the Inland Empire and Southern California. The groups receiving turkeys are based in Banning, Riverside, San Bernardino, Temecula, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Palm Desert, Los Angeles, Carlsbad and many other communities. 
The list of churches, food pantries, schools, veterans groups and homeless shelters receiving turkeys this year included:  the Los Angeles Mission (300 turkeys), Inland AIDS Project in Riverside (200 turkeys), Martha’s Village in Indio (200 turkeys) and Saul Martinez Elementary School in Mecca (300 turkeys), among many others. 
“Morongo’s work in distributing 10,000 turkeys in just two days is an amazing feat of logistics and compassion for our local communities,” said Darla Burkett, executive director of the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, which received 400 turkeys from Morongo. “We are so grateful for Morongo’s spirit of giving.” 
Nirma Usher, president of the Kansas Avenue Resource Center in Riverside, said the 350-turkey donation from Morongo has helped her organization provide families in need with a holiday meal package. 
“Morongo’s donation has really been a blessing, and we really appreciate it,” Usher said. “There are a lot of families struggling to survive and there are a lot of people in need.” 
Pastor Paul Jones of the Zion Elect New Generation Ministry in San Bernardino said most of the 75 turkeys they received from Morongo will be used to help make food baskets for needy families, and that some are bound for a nearby senior center.
“Every Saturday, we feed 100 people so this Saturday is going to be awesome,” Jones said. “Our community is really being blessed by what Morongo is doing.” 
Military families also benefit from the tribe’s Thanksgiving Outreach program, which earmarked nearly 400 turkeys for local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and the Carlsbad-based Our Fallen Soldier.
“Morongo’s turkey donation will go to very deserving and worthy veterans in the community,” said Chris Proctor of VFW Post 1956 in Sun City. “We thank Morongo for their donation.”
Morongo’s turkey largesse isn’t limited to the Inland Empire. For example, the Union Rescue Mission and Los Angeles Mission received a combined total of 500 birds to help feed the homeless this holiday.
Herb Smith, president of the Los Angeles Mission, said the donations would help feed hundreds of poor and homeless men, women and children on Skid Row in Los Angeles. 
“Each year without fail, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians blesses those in need with warm Thanksgiving meals,” Smith said. “We are honored this Thanksgiving to once again partner with Morongo to provide food and care to others.”  
To receive turkeys, participating groups submitted applications to the tribe earlier this year and were notified over the summer that they had been selected.