The tremendous response by donors and families in need of food at Thanksgiving has prompted Chandler CARE Center to try to bolster donations that will be available Friday at the third annual "Back-to-Basics" Holiday Family Assistance Day.
The event begins 8 a.m. at San Marcos Elementary School, 451 W. Frye Road. At that time, volunteers will begin distributing donated turkeys, rice, flour, beans, potatoes, canned goods and basic household items to Chandler families that start lining up at midnight.
Susan Horan, director of the Chandler CARE Center, originally set a goal to serve 800 needy families at Christmas. But when 913 families were served at Thanksgiving - well above the original goal of 500, thanks to community donations - she upped the ante for the next event.
She is hoping there are enough supplies to serve 1,000 needy Chandler families. She said she could still use turkeys, which can be donated Friday at San Marcos.
"This is the third year we have done the 'Back-to-Basics' approach that enables us to serve 1,000 or more families with essential items like food and household items," she said. "In the past, we selected 40 to 50 families who received a wealth of gifts, while all the other families got nothing. The 'Back-to-Basics' program that gives essential items to many needy families throughout the community is more practical and equitable, especially in this economy."
A large bulk of the donated food is coming from Toyota Financial Services and its employees, who also show up the day before to bag everything for distribution. Many of them are on hand the day of the event to help.
Students in the Chandler Unified School District collected a number of items to donate as well, Horan said. Payne Junior High School dropped off 2,200 household items - soap, dish soap, toilet paper and other necessities - earlier this week. Holy Trinity Church collected hundreds of cans of tuna, corn and fruit.
During the Thanksgiving event, the community willingly gave more than Horan had planned on.
"I think people who are fortunate enough to have jobs - even part time - they feel fortunate to have employment and a source of income. They read frequently about how hard it is. Probably their family and neighbors are out of jobs. It's become more personal, and they're willing to share what they have," Horan said.
Horan showed up at 4:10 a.m. the day of the Thanksgiving distribution and already there were more than 200 families in line.
On Friday, a bilingual Santa Claus will give one toy to each child. The toys were collected by the Chandler Fire Department in an annual drive.