SIERRA VISTA — Despite a blustery, chilly morning, families started lining up around 6 a.m. Tuesday for the annual St. Vincent de Paul turkey box distribution.

More than 660 families applied for food boxes this year, St. Vincent de Paul Food bank Director Stan Gardner said.

“We started setting up at 5:30 this morning for the distribution that goes from 8 until noon,” Gardner said. “This year, thanks to a generous donation from Safeway, we’re providing families of one and two with deli boxes.”

Tuesday’s distribution went smoothly, with volunteer participation from the Boy Scouts, Knights of Columbus, St. Andrew Catholic Church Life Teen members, a number of civic organizations and members of the community.

Bill Polakowski, St. Andrew youth minister, said 25 young people from his ministry braved the cold to help load boxes into vehicles and provide other assistance.

“This is a great community service project for kids,” he said. “When we started at 8, we had a dozen grocery carts running continuously to cars to help get the boxes loaded during the first hour. Then it settled down. Now we’re seeing a steady stream of people coming through here for boxes.”

People who receive the Thanksgiving boxes apply for them ahead of time and are provided food based on the size of their families, Polakowski said.

Lisa Graeme has been volunteering for the distribution for more than 10 years, while her 16-year-old son, Richard, started tagging along as a second-grader. He now volunteers with his mother.

“I feel blessed,” Lisa Graeme said. “The community helped us while I was growing up and this is my way of giving back. I’m here with my son and there are other volunteers here with their families, so this is a family event for all of us.”

Summer Graham, who recently moved to the area from Tennessee with her family of seven, is one of the program’s recipients.

“We appreciate this so much,” she said. “They have everything we need for a full Thanksgiving meal, even butter, which really surprised me. This food bank has been amazing — they have never turned us away when we reach out to them for assistance.”

Steve Conroy, another volunteer, said that Tuesday’s distribution was very well organized and flowed smoothly.

“We had a really good showing today, with people lining up early for the boxes, we had a lot of volunteer participation and great community support through donations,” he said.

Acacia Barnett and Nova Home Loans partnered to donate more than 200 turkeys, said Diane McDaniel, president of St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Andrew Conference.

“We had people lined up here before 6 a.m., in spite of the cold. The morning started with a lovely prayer led by Fr. Greg (Adolf),” she said. “We appreciate all of our volunteers and donors.”

With a family of eight, Veronica Griffin said there’s no way her family would be able to celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving dinner without the food bank’s help.

“It’s amazing to see all the volunteers who come out here every year to do this,” she said. “The church groups, civic organizations and kids who come out to help are pretty incredible, especially in such cold weather. It’s heartwarming to see this kind of community involvement.”

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