Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, but Christmas is approaching like a reindeer in the headlights.
Food banks pulled off successful Thanksgiving distributions thanks to last-minute donations, but they and other charities will work tirelessly over the next month to ensure families have enough food on the table and gifts under the tree this Christmas.
The Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency Food Bank gathered enough donations to prepare 2,000 Thanksgiving food baskets to distribute to families on Nov. 16, according to Food Bank Director Lee Kimball.
The organization was also able to hand out leftovers to dozens of people who had not applied for the distribution by the deadline - a relief after being short on items just days before the event.
"I am grateful that, with as many applications as we had, there was enough," she said. "This community totally came through."
The food bank cleared out its supply during the Thanksgiving event and needs to prepare another 2,000 bags for the Christmas distribution on Dec. 23.
"We've got our fingers and toes crossed … that we'll have enough for everybody," she said. "We make promises with nothing in the house and the community always comes through."
About 100 donation containers have been set up around Tuolumne County, and items 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.
The ATCAA distribution will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 19481 Hillsdale Drive in East Sonora on Dec. 23.
Applications to receive food will be available until Dec. 6 at U.S. post officers throughout the county, the food bank in Jamestown and the ACTAA office at 427 Highway 49 in Sonora.
For more information, visit www.actaa.org or call 984-3960.
The Resource Connection Food Bank in Calaveras County had its smoothest Thanksgiving distribution yet, according to Program Director Jeannie Hayward.
Hayward estimated the food bank distributed Thanksgiving baskets to about 880 families.
The Resource Connection was still in need of hundreds of turkeys about a week before the Nov. 20 distribution, but its annual "Stuff the Bus" event on Nov. 17 brought in 140 turkeys and Diestel Turkey Ranch in Sonora donated 76, she said.
A large monetary donation allowed the organization to purchase the remaining turkeys needed.
"I just appreciate the volunteers that came and helped us, and I truly appreciate the support the community gave us to get us through Thanksgiving," Hayward said. "I'm really looking forward to Christmas. I know it's going to be awesome."
Hayward is anticipating 1,200 families at its Christmas distribution on Dec. 20, which is the second part of its Santa's Express program.
Food items needed for Santa's Express include turkeys, canned ham, packaged gravy, canned pineapple and other fruit, dry pasta, canned tomato products, shelf-stable microwave meals, rice, canned veggies, canned soup, tuna, boxed stuffing mix, dry beans, boxed dessert, 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, particularly jackets and sweatshirts, for children ages 12 to 17.
The inaugural Santa's Express fundraising dinner on Nov. 17 brought in three large bins of toys and raised more than $12,000 for the program, Hayward said.
Donations can be taken to the food bank on 206 George Reed Drive in San Andreas from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or dropped off at more than 50 donation bins around the county.
Distribution will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 20 at the food bank, and toys and clothing will be available at Mountain Oaks School in San Andreas.
Applications will be accepted until Dec. 14 and are available at all of 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 www.trcac.org or call 754-1257.
California Highway Patrol recently set up barrels around the county for its 15th annual CHiPs for Kids drive, which distributes toys to underprivileged and hospitalized children around Calaveras County.
CHP will collect donations until Dec. 14.
The Frosty Friends adopt-a-family program, which operates under the Jamestown Family Resource Center, will distribute new gifts and food to Tuolumne County children for its 22nd year.
The program focuses on aiding hard-working families who have unexpectedly fallen on hard times but will not be receiving gifts from other programs.
Program manager and founder Judy Hein said most of the families are referred to her by volunteers and county residents.
"A lot of times these families are very modest and won't even ask," she said. "We all have pride and we don't want to admit that we can't do it."
People interested in helping can visit the program's "giving trees" at many banks around the county and select a snowman tag. Each tag is labeled with a child's age, gender, wants, needs and clothing sizes.
Hein said warm clothes and blankets are often in huge demand because, when families suddenly have to manage tighter budgets, they often cut down on heating costs before other expenses.
Frosty Friends donated items to 86 families last year and Hein hopes to help 75 this holiday season.
She said she currently has enough gifts for 35 families but enough turkeys for about 60, thanks to Twain Harte Market and Diestel Turkey Ranch.
Those who do not want to adopt a family but still want to contribute can drop food items off at Studio 3 Salon and Top Cuts Barbershop in Sonora or the Jamestown Family Resource Center. Hein said the goal of the program is to "make Christmas as normal as possible for as many people as possible."
"Life needs to be normal at the holidays," she said.