Giving back lends a helping hand to hungry families on Thanksgiving

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By Kristin Clifford

By Kristin Clifford

Relief was on the faces of over 500 families as they accepted a packaged Thanksgiving dinner donated through the annual Giving Back event within the Riverside community.

This is the fifth year Giving Back has occurred, and it took place on Nov. 15 at Bobby Bonds Park at the Cesar Chavez Community Center.

The event is sponsored each year by the City of Riverside and Heart Enterprise, and is held to gather Thanksgiving dinners for needy families.

This was the first year the event fell in the hands of Annette Ramsey, who founded and operates the after school program Heart Enterprises.

Heart Enterprises serves children by teaching areas of art and science.

The smell of kettle corn and hot dogs was all around and business booths were set up all over the outdoor event.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner and the economy not at its strongest, volunteers came from all around Riverside County to give back to their community.

“We were able to provide 500 bags for registered families this year,” Ramsey said “…we even have a little extra in case any more families show up and need them.”

With 100 cans of vegetables and 100 boxes of stuffing donated by Ralphs and potatoes donated by Greg Bishop of the Latter Day Saints, all the bags of Thanksgiving dinners were packaged and ready to be served to families by 1 p.m.

Most packages included a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberries and canned vegetables.

The Honors Society at Riverside City College not only brought in many volunteers for this event, but also provided 50 bags of Thanksgiving foods.

Other organizations such as Girl Scouts and the UC Riverside Honors Programs donated food through food drives.

Ramsey was excited to report that although this was a tight financial time all around there were still over 100 volunteers for the event this year, many starting late the night before packaging everything up.

Volunteer Elizabeth Chavez, a recent graduate of Cal State San Bernardino, signed up to volunteer for this event after searching online for volunteer work.

“I had time on my hands, and thought what a great way to start out my career,” Chavez said. “Maybe one day I’ll have my own event to run.”

Chavez was placed to watch over the packaged meals while the event was taking place outside.

According to Chavez, she volunteered for the event because “…giving back is very important and this is a really great place to make connections that I might not have had otherwise.”

Although providing food for the needy was the primary purpose for this event, Ramsey also organized a variety of activities for the whole family to enjoy.

As volunteers operated activity booths and food stands, Titus Entertainment provided the background music.

Other companies like Downey Savings and the Breast Cancer Education and Outreach Program also participated.

An all boy band called Lynus performed for the attendees.

For the children, Heart Enterprises’ Art Program called Children’s Corner offered easels and paper to paint on.

Heart Enterprises’ science program had a table set up with experiments being conducted by volunteers and children were getting involved and learning.

A bounce house was also provided for the festivities.

“This is my first time at this event,” said Amy Scarlett, who attended the event with her 3-year-old daughter Macy.

“My daughter has really enjoyed the bounce house,” Scarlett said pointing to her daughter who was busily preoccupied with the band’s performance on stage.

According to Ramsey, although the event got off to a slow start this year due to the economy, she said, “it all came together right at the end and we were able to provide more dinners than ever before.”

With 500 families being served Thanksgiving dinners, the annual Giving Back in Riverside really succeeded this year despite the economy’s shortage.

“It was the people of this community that made this happen,” Ramsey said.

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