Unprecedented need for food assistance appears before Thanksgiving

Several Bay Area charities say the number of people in-need has skyrocketed during the pandemic and many people are stepping up to donate.

In San Jose, hundreds of donated turkeys are arriving just in time for CityTeam's annual thanksgiving food giveaway.

"We're on track to serve about 5,000 (people), maybe more," said Hermie Smit, program manager for CityTeam.

Smit says the non-profit was still working Monday to secure a few dozen turkey donations to reach the goal of 3,500. Every person in-need will get a turkey, Smit said.

Santa Clara County Realtors Foundation Monday dropped off 50 donated turkeys, before its members left to donate 150 turkeys to other charities.

CityTeam helps thousands of low-income families, the majority of them in Santa Clara County.

"Obviously the need is tremendous. I've been with CityTeam for 19 years. I've never seen need like this," said Smit.

He says they went from helping 1,400 households a month in February to 4,400 households a month in November.

"We've seen so many new families come through," said Smit.

Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Cruz County is seeing the same trend.

"We're serving 70% more people. 40% of the people who are coming have never ever looked for food assistance before. So it's been staggering," said Willy Elliott-McCrea, CEO of Second Harvest Santa Cruz County.

Not only is the need great, but in some cases, so is the giving.

At Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, Senior Pastor Rene Schlaepfer presented a check for $457,000 to the food bank on Monday.

The food pantry says the check was the charity's biggest holiday food drive donation ever.

"In times of extraordinary difficulty, extraordinary generosity is still happening. This means there is hope that we really are all in this together," said Schlaepfer.

He initially questioned if the annual holiday fundraising goal was asking too much of church members in 2020.

But he thinks one reason the record donation was possible is because the church has seen its attendance double since moving its services online.

"This proves, even though we have to socially distance, we can still do great things together," said Valerie Webb with Twin Lakes Church.