Fairfield, Calif. » It’s not often that a freezer can cause surprise, but that was the case for Mission Solano staff when they opened their freezer Monday to find hundreds of donated Thanksgiving turkeys had been stolen.
Every. Last. Bird.
When Executive Director Ron Marlette first heard the words "We’ve got a problem," followed by the news of discovery, he thought it was a joke. Then as the news sank in, along with the realization of what the pilfered poultry could potentially mean for the thousands who benefit from Mission Solano’s 750 food boxes and annual Thanksgiving dinner, Marlette’s heart sank.
With November and December already marking Mission Solano’s busiest time of year, the shelter was a mere week away from its food box giveaway, which includes a turkey "and all the fixings," Marlette explained.
Still, despite the seemingly overwhelming obstacle of empty freezers, Marlette said they were not going to let the theft stop them in their mission and will instead bank on the generosity of the community to supply what is lacking.
"We’ve decided we’re not going to stop the giveaway. Solano County is a very generous community and they always step up. People have been bringing turkeys by all day today," he said Tuesday.
Marlette expressed his chagrin at the thieves who, he said, appeared to have gained access to the turkeys by prying open a back window at the Community Outreach Center on Sunday evening before making off with "a couple of hundred" birds.
"(Staff) came in on Monday and the window was open and the freezers were empty," he said.
"You can imagine our shock to arrive Monday and find that someone had stolen our turkeys," said Raymond Courtemanche, chief operations officer for Mission Solano. "Our staff was quite saddened to know this could mean hundreds within our community go without Thanksgiving dinner."
Throughout the 15 years and millions of meals Mission Solano has provided food to the homeless and hungry, Marlette said he’s never heard of someone stealing turkeys — which, he said, was "stealing hope out of people’s homes." Marlette mused at what the thieves could possibly do with that many birds, since "taking them to a pawn shop" isn’t exactly a viable option.
Since the heist, Marlette said the shelter has been fielding calls from those concerned about not getting their Thanksgiving dinner. Rest assured, he said, "Everybody who signed up will get something."
The shelter will also proceed with its annual Thanksgiving Day dinner, which can feed more than 1,000, at the Fairfield Community Center.
Marlette is urging any and all community members to donate as they are able. "We can use whatever they can do to help."
"Traditionally, we serve more people at Thanksgiving than at any other meal of the year," Marlette said. "The needs in Solano County and across the country continue to grow; our holiday dinner is where the most lonely and vulnerable citizens of the community are welcome guests."
According to Marlette, there is no better feeling than for volunteers to pull together and make a difference by coming together to benefit the community.
The food box giveaway is scheduled to take place Tuesday at the Community Outreach Center, and according to Marlette, hundreds of families are already signed up for meals.
Turkeys can be dropped of at any of Mission Solano’s locations in Fairfield. For more information, visit the shelter’s website: missionsolano.org.
"We’ve got some work to do," Marlette said. "And we’ll do it."
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