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By Allison Jarrell

Lots of smiles were shared between complete strangers last weekend in San Juan Capistrano.

On Nov. 18, student volunteers and Rotary Club members met local families in need and provided them with Thanksgiving dinners made possible by donations from generous San Juan shoppers. Later that afternoon, Marines picked up meals to give to young families back on base.

Church volunteers served hundreds of community members with a home cooked Thanksgiving feast at South Shores Church on Nov. 19. And on Monday, members of local nonprofit Homefront America drove around Southern California delivering donated Thanksgiving meals to a multitude of military bases.

San Juan Capistrano Rotary Club and San Juan Hills Interact Club

On Nov. 18, the San Juan Capistrano Rotary Club, the San Juan Hills High School Interact Club and student volunteers from Marco Forster Middle School collected food donations at four local grocery stores before meeting at San Juan Capistrano Elementary School that same afternoon to sort, box up and hand out Thanksgiving meal donations to local San Juan Capistrano families and young Camp Pendleton 1st Battalion, 11th Marines families in need.

Rotary President Paul St. Pierre, of San Juan Capistrano, said this year’s generosity was unprecedented, with 53 turkeys donated compared to the 10 or 12 the club has received in years past. With the club’s own donation of 50 turkeys, the volunteers were able to give away more than 100 Thanksgiving meals to local families. In addition, St. Pierre said $653 was donated, which will also go toward helping families in need.

Rotarian Carlos Aguilar helped organize the food drive and said the event wouldn’t be possible without the help of about 50 student volunteers who do most of the heavy lifting like collecting donations, sorting the food, and helping families load up their cars.

For more information on becoming involved with Rotary Club, visit The club meets every Wednesday at the San Juan Hills Golf Club, located at 32120 San Juan Creek Road.

South Shores Church

South Shores Church San Juan hosted its fourth annual Love Thy Neighbor Thanksgiving feast in San Juan Capistrano on Nov. 19. The free dinner took place in the Capistrano Valley Christian School gymnasium, where volunteers prepared a home cooked meal for hundreds of people.

Organizer Michael Koontz said with over 500 people in attendance last year, his team of volunteers cooked for 600 this year.

Koontz also helps organize the church’s Feed the Need program, which distributes food donated by local grocers like Trader Joe’s and Sprouts Farmers Market to approximately 100 families in need every Sunday morning.

“It’s been a real blessing for the community, and it’s been a wonderful outreach for our church,” Koontz said.

For more information on South Shores Church San Juan, visit

Homefront America

Each year, local nonprofit Homefront America’s “Giving Thanks to Heroes” program provides military families with all the necessary groceries, Marie Callender pies and a certificate for a turkey for their Thanksgiving dinners.

The program serves more than 250 families from Camp Pendleton and surrounding military communities. On Nov. 20, Homefront America volunteers drove to bases as far as San Diego to deliver the Thanksgiving meals.

Mamie Yong Maywhort, co-founder of Homefront America, said the nonprofit is still in need of donations and support from the community. Members of the public can help the program by donating online at Checks can be mailed to Homefront America at 27375 Paseo La Serna, San Juan Capistrano, CA, 92675.

For more information, call 949.248.9468 or email

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