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Morongo Donates 9,000 Turkeys to Those in Need

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The Morongo Band of Mission Indians continued its tradition of Thanksgiving philanthropy this week, giving away 9,000 turkeys to those in need.

Morongo’s 26th Annual Thanksgiving Outreach program began on Monday, November 14, when more than 100 tribal members and volunteers distributed truckloads of frozen turkeys to 75 pre-selected nonprofit organization from Cabazon, Banning, Riverside, San Bernardino, Redlands, Lost Angeles and other areas in southern California. The birds will go to families, seniors and veterans.

“We at the Morongo Band of Mission Indians are no strangers to adversity but we have always reached out to help others in the community, even when we were struggling to survive. It’s who we are,” Morongo Tribal Councilmember Anne Robinson said in a press release. “In these difficult economic times, we feel fortunate to be able to help families, children, veterans and others in need.”

The band estimates that the 9,000 turkeys will feed provide over 200,000 Thanksgiving dinners to the recipients. Over the past 26 years, Morongo’s annual Turkey give-away has provided nearly 60,000 birds to help feed and estimated 700,000 people.

But with a difficult economy still gripping the region, never was that assistance needed more than now, the band said in its statement. The turkeys have been distributed to groups including the Los Angeles Mission to H.E.L.P. Inc. in San Bernardino, City Church in Riverside, Temecula Valley People Helping People, Carol’s Kitchen in the San Gorgonio Pass and dozens of other local churches and ministries. The organizations will use the turkeys donated by Morongo to feed an estimated 200,000 struggling seniors, children, veterans and families who wouldn’t otherwise get to enjoy a holiday dinner this Thanksgiving season.

“The families and staff at San Gorgonio Child Care Consortium cannot express their gratitude enough for Morongo’s donation,” said Linda Phillips, the group’s Program Director. “This donation is truly helping those in need and is greatly appreciated.”

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Herb Smith, President of the Los Angeles Mission, also expressed his thanks for the 200 donated turkeys his organization received from Morongo. “The Los Angeles Mission serves hundreds of poor and homeless men, women and children in the Skid Row area,” Smith said. “This gift means a lot to us and the people we serve. We are grateful and thank the Morongo Band of Mission Indians for their generosity.”

More than 650 turkeys were given to eight veterans groups, from the VFW Post #1508 in Wildomar, California to the Moreno Valley VFW Post 8547 and the American Legion Auxiliary Post #428 in Banning. “This donation will provide Thanksgiving dinners to close to 150 military and families in the area,” said Patricia Bertrand, President of the American Legion #428 Auxiliary. “If it wasn’t for Morongo, we wouldn’t have been able to do this for the past several years. We can be thankful that this community can count on the tribe’s generosity all year round.”

Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley applauded Morongo’s ongoing commitment to helping the community, not only through the annual Thanksgiving Outreach program but throughout the year. “Every year the Morongo Band of Mission Indians helps thousands of those most in need enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner,” Ashley said. “I can’t think of anything that embodies the spirit of giving more than that.”

Additional groups arrived at the reservation on Tuesday, November 15., to pick up their turkeys. The organizations had applied for the turkeys in April, asking for donations of 10 to 800 birds.

The Morongo Band has 35,000 acres of land at the foot of the San Giorgonio and San Jacinto mountains. The Morongo Reservation was one of nine small reservations set aside by President Grant by executive order in 1865, according to the band’s website. In 1983—five years before the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed, the Morongo Band started a modest bingo hall and its fortunes changed forever. The bingo operation developed into one of the oldest and most successful Indian gaming resort casinos in the country.