'We work magic here'

COSTA MESA — Volunteers stuffed clear bags with potatoes, carrots, onions, pears and oranges on Saturday morning while others filled brown paper bags with nonperishable items like pinto beans, rice, canned soup and cereal.

Later, the chicken or turkey, bread and dessert item will be added to the Thanksgiving food bags to be handed out to those in need.

"These are families that are struggling that might not have chosen to have Thanksgiving because they didn't have the food," said Julie Larson, the manager of volunteers at Share Our Selves (SOS).

SOS will be giving away about 1,500 bags of food this week to help supplement residents' Thanksgiving meals. People have already signed up for 1,300 bags that will be picked up until Wednesday. SOS officials estimate about 200 more will walk in for help.

The Costa Mesa nonprofit regularly packs about 225 food bags Monday through Friday in addition to providing the homeless with prepared food items. The organization also helps residents with baby supplies, clean socks and personal hygiene necessities.

The 35 volunteers Saturday morning moved quickly and efficiently, filling up the lobby with about 700 completed bags.

"It's flowing," Larson said, checking out the volunteers at their assembly lines. "We're going to hire you guys."

Volunteers included Assistance League members, a group of UC Irvine pre-dental students, and employees of the World Poker Tour, which recently opened an office in Irvine.

"We're just looking for somewhere in the community to get involved," said World Poker Tour employee Laura Baptista, who organized the volunteer work. "We just liked what [SOS] had going on."

SOS has been turning away volunteers for the Thanksgiving packing, but can always use help during the week, Larson said.

Food is where the center really needs assistance, said Veronica Rodarte, the social services and development assistant who coordinated the Thanksgiving program.

It's been a rough year and the center is low, officials said.

"It does look like we have a lot of food," Rodarte said, "but when it's going to 1,500 food bags, it goes really fast."

Still, somehow SOS always makes it work, she said.

"We work magic here," Rodarte said. "So we'll make it happen."


Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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