SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- NewsChannel 12 has launched its annual KCOY Holiday Turkey Drive, which will have a modified format this year due to COVID-19.
Since it was created more than 10 years ago, the fundraiser has been a month-long effort to collect turkeys and meal supplies for families in need for the Thanksgiving holiday.
It has culminated each year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving with the community giving generous donations at several drop off locations around the Central Coast.
However, due to the pandemic, this year's campaign will be held mostly in a virtual format.
"We're pivoting and going online," said SLO Food Bank CEO Garret Olson. "For operational reasons, and public health reasons, we're taking all of our donations online, so rather than accepting turkeys in the parking lot, we're asking to give online."
Monetary donations will be accepted online through the official KCOY Holiday Turkey Drive webpage.
Donors will be able to choose which non-profit they would like to direct their contribution to.
While no turkeys will be collected in San Luis Obispo County, Good Samaritan will hold a modified in-person collection on the final day of the drive on Thursday, Nov. 19.
Unlike each year since the Turkey Drive was created, the KCOY studios in Santa Maria will not serve as a collection site.
"We will be at Stowasser's (Buick GMC) on Betteravia Road, and we will be doing contactless," said Kirsten Cahoon, Good Samaritan Director of Shelter Operations. "It is a limited amount of staff that will be out there to help. We're not going to be doing any gathering of people. Your= can drive by, pop your trunk, you can unlock your door. Masked and gloved people will grab your turkey or your donation out of your car and you can keep driving. We are alleviating any kind of risk to the community and to our clients."
A new feature this year is the addition of "Turkey Bucks," that can be purchased at California Fresh Market in San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach, as well as Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande and Lompoc.
Donations collected through the purchase of Turkey Bucks in San Luis Obispo County will be directed to the SLO Food Bank, while those in Santa Barbara County will go to Good Samaritan Shelter.
"You purchase these at participating grocery stores. They collect those funds and then they go directly to us and every dollar you give turns into seven holiday meals for our neighbors in need," said Olson. "If you are in a position to give, whatever level, $1, $10, $100, every single dollar is put to great use."
Another new way to donate is through text.
People can text @KCOY Turkey to #52014.
"It's actually easier this year to give than it has been in the past," said Olson. "You can do it from the comfort of your own home. You can do it via text, and so you don't have to go to the grocery store this to give this year."
Both local non-profits each point out that donations are needed this year more than ever before.
"It's been a tough year for the homeless community with all the things that we've faced this year," said Cahoon. "We're seeing an increase in clients, we're seeing an increase in clients that we're housing and them being able to get the resources to put Thanksgiving dinner on the table for their families this year, is really tough, so we're really looking to the community to provide that."
"We've never seen need like we're seeing right now," said Olson. "Hunger in San Luis Obispo County is up 154 percent. We were feeding about one in six of our neighbors, but now, we're up to about two in five, so almost 40 percent, about 74,000 of San Luis Obispo residents face hunger every day."
For more information and to donate, visit the KCOY Holiday Turkey Drive webpage.