Courtesy Morongo Band
Pastor Ted Collins of Renewed Life Fellowship of Moreno Valley, Calif.

Morongo Band Has Donated 1.75 Million Holiday Meals Over 31 Years of Turkey Giveaways


The Morongo Band of Mission Indians continued its tradition of philanthropy by distributing 10,000 free turkeys this week that will be used to provide an estimated 200,000 Thanksgiving meals across Southern California this year.

With this year’s donation, Morongo’s annual Thanksgiving Outreach program has given away more than 110,000 turkeys – enough to provide more than 1.75 million holiday meals.

“Even during the times that our tribe faced great difficulties and hardship, we always found a way to give to others,” said Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin.  “That spirit of giving lives on at Morongo and we hope to alleviate such uncertainty for those in need this holiday season.”

On Monday and Tuesday, dozens of tribal members and volunteers gathered at the Morongo Community Center to help distribute the frozen turkeys to 116 nonprofit organizations, churches, food pantries, schools, veterans groups and homeless shelters from across Southern California. Groups receiving turkeys hailed from Banning, Beaumont, Riverside, San Bernardino, Lake Elsinore, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Mecca, Los Angeles, and many other communities. 

“Morongo is the pinnacle of kindness,” said Darla Burkett, executive director of the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission which received 400 turkeys from the tribe.  “Morongo’s annual donation brings hope and holiday cheer to the Coachella Valley.”

Others among the 116 recipients included the Inland AIDS Project in San Bernardino (200), Hope Food Share Program Bank in San Jacinto (175), Kansas Avenue Resource Center in Riverside (175) and Martha’s Village in Indio (150).

Jerimy Billy of United American Indian Involvement of Los Angeles applauded Morongo’s ongoing generosity to the community, noting how turkeys donated by the tribe will help his group provide meals to 300 people this year.

“A portion of the donation will be cooked and provided to the homeless population or needy families and some will be given away in food baskets,” Billy said.

Groups that received turkeys from the program said the Morongo donation will help them fulfill their mission to help others in need.

“Morongo’s outreach creates a positive bond between tribes,” said Edward Chacon of the Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians. “The program benefits both Native Americans and the larger community.”

Arlene Ragan, co-founder of Carol’s Kitchen in Banning agreed, saying, “Thanks to the immense generosity of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, we’re able to serve traditional, nutritious meals to families in need each year during Thanksgiving week. We’re incredibly grateful for all the tribe does to continuously strengthen our communities in the Pass area.”

Hundreds of veterans and military families are benefitting from the tribe’s Thanksgiving Outreach program which provided 100 turkeys this year to local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other military support groups.

“We feed over 100 veterans on Wednesday and on Sunday we give turkeys to needy families across the community,” said Pastor Ted Collins of Renewed Life Fellowship Church in Moreno Valley. “Many people would be without Thanksgiving dinner if it weren’t for the compassion of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.”

The Union Rescue Mission and Los Angeles Mission received a combined total of 400 birds to help feed the homeless this holiday. Herb Smith, president of the Los Angeles Mission, said the donations would help feed hundreds on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

“Every year, we can always count on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians to bless the poor and homeless men, women and children we serve,” Smith said. “We are honored to be partnering with Morongo once again to provide food and care this Thanksgiving.” 

To receive turkeys, participating groups submitted applications to the tribe earlier this year and were notified over the summer that they had been selected.

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