Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

Mother Lode food banks are preparing for the busy holiday season by raising funds and asking the community for food, clothing and toy donations.

The Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency Food Bank is scrambling to collect enough food for the 2,000 families expected to attend its annual Thanksgiving distribution in about three weeks, according to operations manager Anthony Martinez.

The food bank still needs about 2,000 cans of pie filling and 1,500 pounds of stuffing. The organization was short on both items prior to last year's event.

Vegetables, cranberry sauce, baking supplies and rolls are always needed during the holiday season. Martinez said monetary donations are also helpful.

"We're begging for the community's help," he said.

Donation boxes popped up at grocery stores and banks around Tuolumne County about a week ago and will remain at the locations until the new year. Donations can also be taken to the food bank at 10059 Victoria Way in Jamestown from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Meals were distributed to about 1,600 families at last year's Thanksgiving event, according to Martinez. He contributes the increase in demand this year to the high gas prices and still sluggish economy.

The Resource Connection Food Bank in Calaveras County is collecting items for its Santa's Express program, which includes a food distribution in November for Thanksgiving and a food, toy and clothing distribution in December for Christmas.

The organization set up donation boxes last week at businesses, schools, community buildings and stores throughout the county. They will be in place until the Christmas distribution event on Dec. 20. Donations can also be taken to the food bank at 206 George Reed Drive in San Andreas from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Jeannie Hayward, program director for the food bank, expects the organization to serve about 900 families at Thanksgiving and 1,300 at Christmas this year.

Food items needed for Santa's Express include packaged gravy, cranberry sauce, dry pasta, canned tomato products, non-refrigerated and non-frozen microwave meals, rice, canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned soup, tuna, boxed stuffing mix, dry beans, boxed desserts, peanut butter in plastic jars and instant mashed potatoes.

The organization is also requesting new toys for children under 11 years old and new clothing for ages 12 to 17.

"Our community has always been very, very generous," Hayward said.

A fundraising dinner for Santa's Express will be held at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in Angels Camp on Saturday, Nov. 17. Admission into the event is a new toy for the Christmas distribution and $20, with $10 covering the cost of the meal and the other half benefiting the program.

The family-friendly event will include live music, a silent auction and raffle.

The ATCAA distribution events will be held on Nov. 16 and Dec. 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Church of Latter-day Saints at 19481 Hillsdale Drive in East Sonora.

The Resource Connection distribution events will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 20 and Dec. 20 at the food bank. Toys and clothing will be available at Mountain Oaks School in San Andreas during the Christmas event.

Applications to receive items at the Resource Connection distribution events are available at the organization's locations, including the food bank, and the Calaveras Works and Human Services Agency. For a list of the Resource Connection's sites, visit or call 754-1257.

Applications to receive food through ATCAA are available at U.S. post offices throughout Tuolumne County, the food bank and food distribution sites, which can be found at or by calling 984-3960.