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First 5, United Way help 30 families in need

Annual Thanksgiving Day dinner giveaway almost didn’t happen First 5 Madera County and United Way handed out traditional Thanksgiving Day meal ingredients to 30 area families in need Tuesday.

The midday giveaway provided green beans, canned corn, regular and sweet potatoes, turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pies to poor families in First 5’s case management program. The meals cost about $75 to $100 depending on store prices and the size of participating families ranged from five to 10 members on average, Wright estimated. More than 20 percent of county families live below the federal poverty level, according to First 5.

The sixth annual Thanksgiving Dinner giveaway almost didn’t happen after a past sponsor, a local fitness gym, bowed out a few weeks ago.

“We have a great partnership already with First 5, and we stepped in to make some connections with some of our business partners,” said Lindsay Callahan, president and CEO of United Way Fresno and Madera Counties. “We were able to bring in Realty Concepts, which provided much of the food that we brought ... today. Their main office is in Fresno (but) they serve Madera as well.”

Erika Wright, who manages First 5 Family Resource Center in Madera, said, “We were very excited to be able to partner with United Way this year to make it happen. So first and foremost that’s what we’re most excited about. Each family is getting a turkey. That’s a huge deal. That’s a huge expense. So that is a huge relief for us.”

The fact that 30 families were already counting on the food was the primary reason United Way stepped in.

“I knew the families were already screened and working closely with the Madera Family Resource Center, and that they were in fact in need, that this was really going to make a big difference for them,” Callahan said. “So we’re happy to put the time in and put the energy in for families like that, that really need the help and support.”

Wright hopes the partnership will continue so that, with greater time to gather donations, more families will be able to participate. Callahan echoed that wish and United Way’s commitment, as well as a desire to distribute “a bigger array of food.”

However the point of such giveaways is not the food, Callahan said, rather “it’s that we’re showing people that the community cares. ‘Cause the community does care and they’re willing to pitch in when people need it.”

Though unaware of Callahan’s words, Luisa Torres seemed to agree. She came to the giveaway with her 6-year-old son Ramon Valenzuela Torres. Through a translator, she said she’s really happy the community has events like this to help her family, and said she would tell others of such opportunities “because we all need to help out each other.”

Beyond holiday aid, First 5 and United Way both want to link struggling families to life-changing resources.

“We want to help them figure out how next year may be different. That they’re on the other side (then) — they can give instead of receiving,” Callahan said. “So the end goal is really to help families figure out how to thrive and create prosperity for their entire family and not have to be on the receiving side. To be on the giving side, that’s what it’s all about.”

For information on the local First 5, visit For information on the area’s United Way, visit


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