Food closet welcomes more than 200 people for Thanksgiving |

Food closet welcomes more than 200 people for Thanksgiving

by Merrie Leininger, staff writer

What is Thanksgiving without turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie? More than 200 families won’t have to find out because volunteers at the Carson Valley Food Closet worked a long day Tuesday to make sure they had the traditional trimmings of a Thanksgiving dinner.

“If it wasn’t for them, my daughters and I wouldn’t have a Thanksgiving or a Christmas,” said Elizabeth McCloskey of Topaz Ranch Estates. “We would probably be eating macaroni and cheese.”

Valarie Bagwell of Gardnerville said the food closet is just one part of the support system she and her three children have leaned on in the three years since she moved here from Los Angeles.

“We came from L.A. and there is no way you would find anything as helpful as here. Everybody is so nice here. It was a struggle. Karen Goode at social services helped us get housing, helped get my kids involved in sports. The town and the police department helped give my children birthdays last year. I’ve never been any place where the community pulls together so much,” Bagwell said. “A year ago, we were coming to the food closet every two weeks. Now we only have to come once a month with my new job. The kids and I try to do everything we can to give back to them and the community.”

Food closet Director Diane Malone said this year saw fewer families seeking help.

“Our numbers have dropped. We usually do close to 300, but we had 246 on the list this year,” she said. “I was really surprised, because we’d been pretty busy here on regular days. I’m hoping some of the families have found work so they don’t need our services any longer.”

Malone said the job is sometimes hard, with so many sad stories coming through her door, but in the end she is glad.

“Sometimes it is depressing to hear some of the things that have gone on in the families, but I’m so grateful for the people in this community that support us and help to make it uplifting, because that enables us to do what we do for these families,” she said.

She said she also has some success stories.

“Sometimes, after the holidays we’ll get little notes and cards, thanking everybody for what they’ve done for their families,” Malone said. “Yesterday, I got a phone call from a lady who used to get food from us and now has put a program together to help some people in her church and offered me some certificates for food. She wanted to repay us in some way.”

Families must sign up through Douglas County Social Services to receive food vouchers. People can get food twice a month from the food closet. For the Thanksgiving distribution, they received a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, fruit, vegetables, rolls and pies.

The majority of the food comes from community organizations that hold food drives, and some Malone buys from local grocery stores.

Malone said the food closet has about 22 volunteers who help year-round, and a few extra people who came in for the Thanksgiving distribution Tuesday.

Mike Shearer of Minden is a volunteer at the food closet. He got involved by helping deliver food donated by St. Gall Catholic Church.

“I got to meet some people over here and I just feel like it is a worthwhile thing to do,” he said.

His friend Wayne Henderlong said he had worked at a similar organization when he lived in San Jose.

“I wanted to give back a little. This was a good way to help,” Henderlong said. “I think Thanksgiving is a time we all need to show our appreciation for each other and help others who are less fortunate.”

Jerry Rasmussen said he is retired now and has time to help out.

“I wanted to get involved in the community after I retired. I thought I would be helpful rather than just sit around the house,” Rasmussen said.

“I just feel I’m so fortunate, I’d like to help others,” said volunteer Kathy Taormina.

Kathleen Dantin of Gardnerville was at the closet with her two daughters, Toni, 8, and Kristina, 10, and her neighbor, Tammy Oglesby.

“It means a lot,” Dantin said. “It really helps. It makes the holiday feel warmer.”

“It gives the kids an opportunity to realize what the holidays are about and that people care enough to help,” Oglesby said.

Oscar Cortez came down from Stateline to collect some Thanksgiving food.

He and his family work in the casinos. He said this time of year, between the summer tourist season and when the snow brings in skiers, is a tough time for his family of seven.

“It is good to have the dinner at Thanksgiving and say thanks to God and the people that help us and to eat together with the family. It can be difficult, but fortunately, this helps,” Cortez said.

Meadow Bivens of Gardnerville said family is the most important thing and the food closet ensures that her four children will have a nice Thanksgiving dinner.

“I’m thankful everybody is together,” Bivens said.

A Topaz woman who asked not to be named said this is her first year away from her family, which lives back east.

“I think it is great. There are four of us at home. It is our first year here. I am glad there are people that are willing to help and make your holidays happier,” she said.