The Berkeley Police Association is aiming to assemble 600 Thanksgiving “turkey baskets” for families in need this year. Courtesy: Berkeley Police Association

After a one-year break due to COVID-19, the Berkeley Police Association has kicked off its annual “turkey basket” fundraiser for Thanksgiving 2021.

Learn more about the BPA’s Thanksgiving 2021 turkey basket fundraiser on GoFundMe

The association, which is the union that represents Berkeley police officers, has raised more than $4,000 to date and hopes to get to $10,000 before the holiday next week. The goal? To provide boxed and bagged Thanksgiving meals to 600 local families.

“It’s just a really good chance for us to help the community,” Sgt. Scott Castle, BPA vice president, told Berkeleyside this week. “It’s something that matters. It’s a way to give back.”

In 2019, with the help of more than 75 volunteers and support from a range of community partners, the BPA put together 500 meals for distribution throughout Berkeley. This year, the association is again working with volunteers and community groups to pull off the big event.

The BPA relies on a number of Berkeley institutions to identify families in need. This year, those include Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, Phillips Temple CME Church, Berkeley Youth Alternatives, the Multicultural Institute in West Berkeley, which supports immigrant families, and the city of Berkeley itself.

Castle said organizations often begin to contact Berkeley police months in advance to find out how many turkey baskets might be available for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Everyone’s like, ‘I’ll take 100! What’s the limit?'” Castle said. “There’s no real limit. The need is crazy.”

Then-Police Chief Andy Greenwood helps move boxes at the 2019 turkey basket event. Courtesy: BPA

The police association does other charitable work throughout the year, but the turkey basket fundraiser is the BPA’s “key event,” Castle said: “This is the one the community comes to depend on.”

The day before Thanksgiving, BPA members work with community volunteers, including Berkeley police officers on patrol if they are available, to put the meals together and distribute them to community groups. Those groups then get the meals into the hands of local families.

Several Berkeley council members, the police chief and Mayor Jesse Arreguín are planning to attend next week’s turkey basket assembly event to lend their assistance.

“I am grateful to the Berkeley Police Association for once again organizing a turkey basket drive to help food-insecure families have a holiday meal. Their generosity and organizing of donations will ensure that people in our community will not go hungry on Thanksgiving. I encourage everyone to donate to support this effort,” Arreguín told Berkeleyside on Tuesday. “It’s an example of what is so great about our community — people coming together and helping each other.”

A Berkeley parking enforcement officer helps out at the 2019 turkey basket assembly event. Courtesy: BPA

At this point, Castle said, the main need for the BPA turkey basket fundraiser is financial donations. But individuals who would like to help assemble the baskets can email Castle with inquiries to see what may be possible.

Turkey basket contents could vary depending on availability but generally include stuffing, cranberry sauce, canned goods, rolls or something similar, dessert and, of course, a turkey.

This week, new event partner Pacific Agri-Products, Inc. — a local wholesale meat distributor — jumped in with a pledge to provide at least 500 turkeys when a prior donation offer fell through unexpectedly. Longtime event partner Oakland Grocery Outlet will provide side dishes this year.

A number of local businesses, including investment firm Mindful Money, City Center Church and Fourth Street Businesses, provide a substantial amount of financial support to help Berkeley’s turkey basket fundraiser succeed. But additional community assistance is still needed in the form of financial donations, Castle said.

“Many families have come to rely on this program giving them the opportunity to come together and have a good meal,” Castle wrote on GoFundMe. “We are hoping to compound on prior success and make this our best year yet.”

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...