One man drive for turkeys

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Dan McClosky, an Oakland salesman, is a persuasive man. With his low-key demeanor and soft voice, McClosky could sell coals to Newcastle.

About six months ago, McClosky undertook an ambitious project that soon required assistance.

He came to Temple Sinai Brotherhood, hat in hand, and asked for a favor: Could they donate money to buy turkeys for the poor for Thanksgiving and Christmas?

"I was happy to help Dan out with his turkey drive," said Glenn Olean, the brotherhood's president. "It was a great idea, and Dan really got the brotherhood to jump on the bandwagon."

The effort soon spread to the rest of the congregation.

McClosky, a longtime member of the Oakland Reform congregation, was inspired to take action after reading about the shortage of turkeys last year during the Alameda County Community Food Bank's annual distribution to the poor.

The food bank distributes 10 million pounds of food annually, providing approximately 546,000 meals to low-income people. Requests for food increase dramatically over the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas season.

So far, McClosky's turkey drive has raised about $9,000. That translates roughly into 650 fat turkeys. The project will continue seeking donations well into December, McClosky said.

During the holidays, "people become aware of what they're blessed with," said Gilberto Hayman-Martinez, Alameda County food bank's development director. "But there are many people, who look at the holiday season with their faces pressed against the glass."

Terry Appleby heads Temple Sinai's Sisterhood, which helped manufacture "gobble alert" mailers. "I think it's truly remarkable that one person was able to organize a whole congregation and make a difference," she said.

Sinai's Rabbi Steven Chester said McClosky's idea has "really touched something in the core of people's hearts and minds."

McClosky said he constantly comes across the attitude that someone else will help.

"That was the belief I had for many years," he said. "But when I read about the food bank having a shortage, combined with seeing homeless people every day, my conscience really gnawed at me."

McClosky said he was profoundly disturbed that a city sitting in the shadows of the wealthy Silicon Valley could lack food for the poor.

"It just doesn't make sense that a shortage of that magnitude could take place in Oakland."