Thanksgiving food giveaway also offers free flu shot for those willing to roll up their sleeves

Food and flu shots made a winning combination Monday night in the Napa Valley.

Hundreds of people lined up for a community giveaway just in time for Thanksgiving.

"This is our home, this is our community," said organizer Glen Newhart, President of the St. Helena Hospital Foundation. "This same team came together during the Glass Fire and distributed over 5,000 hot meals so it's nice to rally around our fellow citizens and help them out when they're in need."

The drive-through event was held at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Calistoga, where drivers waited an hour or more for a free turkey and a grocery bag with all the fixings for a holiday meal.

The items were delivered straight to their vehicles to make it as touchless and COVID-safe as possible. 

"They are both grateful and desperate, " said Tish Wagner, a volunteer with Community Organizations Active in Disaster.

Wagner was overseeing the assembly line distribution of not only food, but water, hand sanitizer, blankets, and toiletry kits.

"We're both seniors and we're both locked in so we can benefit from whatever's available," said Paulette Solt, who arrived with a friend.

The distribution was coordinated by Adventist Health, Celebration Nation, Up Valley Family Center, Pacific Union College, and ADRA, the Adventist Disaster and Relief Agency.

"We are trying to serve everyone that we can who's feeling the pinch this year," said Wagner. "Many people have lost their homes because of the fires here and lost jobs due to the economics of COVID-19 and we're a hospitality county where it's especially hard."

Also available through the car window: a free flu shot for those willing to roll up their sleeve.

More than 200 people got vaccinated.

St. Helena Hospital remains closed due to smoke damage from the devastating Glass Fire in September, but expects to reopen within a few weeks.

Fire burned up to the hospital helipad and destroyed some structures on the campus.

All told, the Glass Fire consumed more than 600 homes in Napa and Sonoma Counties.

"In our hospital's first 142 years there's no record of any evacuation and then in 45 days we evacuated twice," said Newhart, "for the LNU Complex Fire and then the Glass Fire."

But resilience runs deep, among Napa Valley helpers, and those being helped.

"I am disabled and I have a disabled daughter," said Lynn Price, waiting in line for donations. "Anything I can get will help us because we don't get that much of anything, just social security, so it's just hard to make ends meet once in a while."

The non-profits involved may hold another giveaway next month, perhaps incorporating Christmas toys.

"The popular myth is everybody in the Napa Valley is wealthy, but that couldn't be further from the truth," said Gerhart. "There's a lot of need here, so we're bringing together partners to help meet that need."

By the end of the evening, all of the turkeys were gone, and recipients were given grocery store gift cards instead.

"There's a lot of desperation I see all across the valley, a very hard year," said Wagner, "and especially here because we've had disaster upon disaster."

About 500 families were served during the event.