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Aera in the Community, Featured Nov 13, 2020

Community organizations, local companies step forward to bring normalcy to local families just in time for Thanksgiving

From Ventura to Bakersfield, communities are coming together—despite the challenges of COVID-19—to provide Thanksgiving meals to local families

Nicole Kennedy, (right) a process supervisor at Aera’s Belridge facility, and her fiancée Willie Gordon are among the Aera volunteers who helped pack meals for families on Ventura’s westside.

Family gatherings may look a lot smaller this year, but community organizations and companies are coming together to do all they can to help local families gather and enjoy Thanksgiving meals with their loved ones during these challenging times.

Partnering for Thanksgiving in Ventura

In Ventura, Aera Energy will partner with the Ventura Downtown Lions Club, the Ventura Community Police Foundation and the City of Ventura to donate Thanksgiving meals to about 100 local families this year.

The ingredients for the meals will be purchased through a combined $5,000 donation from Aera Energy and the Lions Club. Lions Club volunteers will pack the boxes, and Aera will help city staff distribute the meals on Nov. 24 to low-income residents at the Westpark Community Center, in a COVID-safe way.

“Our community is made up of predominately low-income residents,” said Anita Diaz, parks and recreation youth program coordinator for the city of Ventura. “Right now — it’s an exceptionally difficult time for our families – they’re struggling to keep their jobs and their children are distance learning all in the middle of a pandemic.

“We’ve consistently been providing Thanksgiving meals every year to support our local families, and they have become dependent on us,” Diaz added. “We just couldn’t let them down. If we didn’t have the support of Aera and the Lions Club, we wouldn’t have been able to do it this year.”

Aera’s donation to sponsor the Thanksgiving meals was a portion of a bigger donation made to the City of Ventura. An additional $2,500 will be used to support Westpark holiday events including the city’s Spark of Love Toy Drive that will be held in partnership with the Ventura County Fire Department in December.

As in years past, Aera employees will work with Golden Empire Gleaners to provide Thanksgiving meals for hundreds in Kern County. In this November 2019 photo, Aera’s Jamie Swetalla (left) helps load food with Rochelle Howard, Aera’s Thanksgiving campaign leader, and the Gleaners’ Glen Ephrom.

In Kern County, Thanksgiving with a personal touch

In Bakersfield, Golden Empire Gleaners will also provide Thanksgiving meals to the local families who need it the most this month, and Aera Energy employees have stepped in virtually to sponsor about 200 of those meals.

Boxes purchased will be transported to Golden Empire Gleaners to help Kern County families. While employees won’t be packing boxes in person as they would normally do this time of year, they will be able to add a personal touch to the boxes they sponsor – they’ll decorate Thanksgiving notes and holiday artwork to include in the boxes to wish the families a happy holiday.

“We know COVID-19 has upended life for so many families that are dealing with everything from job uncertainty to how they are going to put food on their tables,” said Jamie Swetalla, of Aera’s public affairs department. “These meals will provide a bit of normalcy for local families and ensure that they too can enjoy a time of celebration over a nice meal this Thanksgiving.”

The Golden Empire Gleaners will distribute the Thanksgiving meal boxes to families on Nov. 24.

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