Merced County man helping families celebrate the holidays

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Merced County man is giving out 1,000 turkeys this week with the help of plenty of volunteers.

Debbie Castillo got to the Merced County Fairgrounds at 3:28 a.m. on Monday to be the first in line for a free turkey. "It's very helpful to be honest with you. Some people don't have a turkey like me. You don't have one, you don't have one. You've got to come out and stand in line like the rest of us. It's hard."

By the time the gates opened at 1:00 p.m., hundreds of people were waiting to pick up these turkeys and almonds donated by Greg Hostetler. "I'm a disabled vet, and we're on a fixed income, and this is very helpful for me and my family and I'd like to thank him from the bottom of my heart and tell him this is a wonderful thing he's done for our family and all the other people in this community," said Dave Hammit, Merced County.

Hostetler is a local farmer and developer who has held this giveaway since his wife, Cathie, lost her battle with Lou Gherig's Disease in 2010. She began giving away food to families in need back in the 70's. "My wife's wish-- she wanted this to continue on in a bigger and better way as things went better, and things have gone, Merced County's been great to me, the Valley's been great to me and our company, and that's why we're able to do that now," said Hostetler.

Hostetller also credits Gallo for donating hundreds of packages of cheese and all of the volunteers who help organize and carry out this annual event. "The people do all the work, and I get a lot of credit for this, but I can't do this without the help of all these people."

Volunteers handed out a total of 500 turkeys, bags of almonds, and packages of cheese today. They'll be doing the same Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. at the fairgrounds in Los Banos.
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