How to Help Those Less Fortunate This Holiday Season

For many North Coast families, much of the upcoming week will be spent getting ready for a Thanksgiving feast.

Yet even in times of plenty, some people struggle, and safety nets are thin. Providing shelter, food and other services requires prodigious efforts by charitable organizations, which in turn rely on gifts of time and money from their benefactors.

If you want to help others put food on their table, here are some organizations in Sonoma County that provide holiday meals, groceries and other assistance for people in need:

The Redwood Gospel Mission will host its annual Thanksgiving dinner for 5,000 people on Wednesday. Then it will gear up to do it again at Christmas. Donate or download a shopping list online at srmission.org, bring a turkey to the mission at 101 Sixth St. in Santa Rosa, or call 578-1830.

Sonoma Raceway is collecting nonperishable food for distribution through Friends in Sonoma Helping (friendsinsonomahelping.org) and the Redwood Empire Food Bank (refb.org). Donations are accepted through Friday at Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma Market, Glen Ellen Village Market and RKA Motorcycle Luggage in Windsor.

The Redwood Empire Food Bank supplies 178 agencies around the region including soup kitchens and food pantries. Donate online at refb.org, send contributions to 3990 Brickway Blvd., Santa Rosa 95403, or call 523-7900.

Friends in Service Here, or FISH, is an all-volunteer food bank that provides free groceries to 65,000 people a year in Sonoma County. Donate at fish-of-santa-rosa.org, 2900 McBride Lane, Santa Rosa, or call 527-5151.

Catholic Charities distributes food through its rural food program, which serves communities away from pantries and food banks. Donate online at srcharities.org or call 528-8712.

The Salvation Army distributes food to needy families. It is seeking volunteers for its annual red kettle campaign. Address: 93 Stony Circle, Santa Rosa 95401. Phone 542-0998.

The Committee on the Shelterless, also known as COTS, provides shelter, transitional housing and training and serves 100,000 meals and distributes 500,000 pounds of food annually. Donate online or see a wish list and volunteer opportunities at cots-homeless.org, or send a donation to COTS, P.O. Box 2744, Petaluma 94953.

Food for Thought, a Forestville-based food pantry, serves AIDS and HIV patients 6550 Railroad Ave., Forestville. Donate online at fftfoodbank.org. To volunteer, email volunteer@fftfoodbank.org, or call 887-1647.

The Council on Aging delivers more than 250,000 meals annually to senior citizens and provides social, financial and legal services. You can volunteer or donate at councilonaging.com. Send donations to 30 Kawana Springs Road, Santa Rosa 95404 or call 525-0143.

Petaluma People Services Center assists with housing and job training and serves more than 40,000 meals through its Meals on Wheels and cafe programs. Send donations to petalumapeople.org, 1500A Petaluma Blvd. S., Petaluma, 94952 or call 765-8488.

Our list is a small sample of organizations offering a helping hand in our community. If you want to draw attention to one that we didn’t mention, post a comment below.