FISH, Friends In Sonoma Helping, is handing out its annual Christmas boxes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at Hanna Boys Center, and this year, officials are looking to give away more than 300 food-filled boxes.
Last year, FISH gave out 470 Christmas boxes, but a new adopt-a-family program is the reason the numbers of people who signed up in advance to receive a box are lower than last year’s.
“We’ll be prepared,” said Sandy Piotter, FISH’s executive director. “We won’t be turning anyone away.”
She said people who didn’t sign up in advance can come by Hanna Boys Center after 3 p.m. for a box of food that includes fresh produce, eggs and a gift card for a meat dish. FISH used to give out frozen turkeys, but the storage and lifting of all those turkeys led to the idea of a gift card for meat.
Piotter said the event this year is a collaborative project involving FISH, Catholic Charities and the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
“Catholic Charities sent a truck down Tuesday to haul all our food from storage and then went and picked up the boxes at a second location,” Piotter said. “And then on Thursday, they’ll pick up fresh produce at Redwood Empire Food Bank and bring it down here.”
Last year, the produce distribution was at La Luz at the same time as the FISH food giveaway.
“This is truly a coordinated effort,” she said. “The food program is well coordinated in the Valley.”
FISH receives food from various drives and organizations, including the Boy Scouts annual food drive in November, Sonoma Raceway drive at Valley schools and businesses, and barrels at local grocery stores.
“Last weekend, the St. Andrew bell choir showed up at Lucky’s (market) and rang for two hours,” she added.
And while FISH will be feeding a small army, it takes a small army to coordinate, move, pack and distribute the food to the needy. More than 60 volunteers will have helped in this year’s effort.
“Dick Severson and Dick Roland have been organizing this for years,” Piotter said. “It’s a labor of love for them. They see the big picture.”
Behind the scenes, Linda Stevens works the telephones taking requests for food barrels, finding slots for volunteers and making sure everything is ready to go.
In addition, FISH also has about 50 people who will get their Christmas box home-delivered. “They’re mostly to the people we deliver food to twice a month,” Piotter said.
In past years, FISH has also held a toy giveaway at Hanna in conjunction with the food giveaway, but that’s changed this year. Toys will be given away from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, at 551 Fifth St. W.
But a lot of this happens because Valley residents are generous.
“We thank all of the community,” Piotter said. “This is a special, caring community.”