SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- While COVID-19 may have modified this year's NewsChannel 12 Turkey Drive, the annual fundraiser still turned out to be a huge success.
"I'm amazingly impressed, and more than that, I am just so thrilled and honored that our caring community pivoted with us on this," said SLO Food Bank. Chief Executive Officer Garret Olson. "We have just been astounded by this community's continued generosity and kindness."
"I am extremely proud of this community," said Good Samaritan Shelter Homeless Services Director Kirsten Cahoon. "Everyone that has donated online. Everyone that is coming out. We appreciated every bit of that."
Typically, the Turkey Drive features a day-long collection of turkeys and other donations at several different collection sites, including the NewsChannel 12. Santa Maria station.
However, due to the pandemic, this year's event was moved into an online fundraising campaign.
"We are so thankful for our caring community that adjusted with us during these challenging times," said Olson. "We went virtual and our community followed us on that virtual path and is making a huge difference for many, many thousands who are struggling right now."
People who wished to contribute were directed towards the station website, where donations could be given to their choice of either Good Samaritan Shelter or SLO Food Bank.
As of Thursday night, donations collected through the online campaign reached more than $26,000.
With donations coming in over the past month, SLO Food Bank has already purchased 1,520 turkeys, which are now being delivered to partner agencies, who will distribute them to clients over the next few days.
"Hunger has gone up 154% in San Luis Obispo County since the pandemic, so there are thousands of people who are struggling to put food on the table right now," said Olson. "Every dollar donated to the SLO Food Bank, we turn that into seven nutritious meals, which is just amazing."
While NewsChannel 12 was not able to host its traditional onsite collection, Good Samaritan held a contactless drop off on Thursday at Stowasser Buick GMC in Santa Maria.
A secondary drop off location was held at Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in Lompoc.
At the two Santa Barbara County sites, Good Samaritan collected more than 200 turkeys, as well as just over $10,000.
"It's been great," said Cahoon. "We appreciate everything. We appreciate every single person who showed up, that came today, or made a donation online. We appreciate it and we're super grateful."
A final tally of monetary donations and turkeys is expected by Friday.