Students get Thanksgiving dinners as part of anti-gang challenge

Fifteen students at Wilson Elementary School in Costa Mesa were among more than 800 who this week received a special delivery just in time for Thanksgiving.

Representatives of the Costa Mesa Police Department, Orange County Probation and the Orange County district attorney’s office, who collaborate as part of the Orange County Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership, showed up at the campus with turkeys and all the fixings for holiday meals for the students and their families.

GRIP is a coalition of law enforcement agencies that helps identify at-risk children and provide them with incentives not to join street gangs and to continue to attend school.

The holiday dinners, which are meant to feed a family of 10, were prizes for Orange County students in fourth through eighth grades who succeeded in the partnership’s eighth annual Thanksgiving challenge to improve their school attendance, behavior and grades in time for the holidays.

In all, 875 students from 55 schools in Costa Mesa, Anaheim, Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Mission Viejo, Orange, Santa Ana, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Stanton and Tustin received the food.

Each bag contained a turkey, boxed mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, corn, turkey gravy, green beans and pumpkin pie. Ralphs and Food 4 Less donated the meals, whose cost added up to more than $25,000, according to the district attorney’s office.

For Wilson Elementary parents who received the food, the occasion was a reminder that their children are focused on their education and are on a solid path, said Costa Mesa police spokeswoman Roxi Fyad.

“The free turkey dinner is just icing on the cake,” Fyad said.

Fry writes for Times Community News

hannah.fry@latimes.com

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