This week the Redwood Empire Food Bank will be busy making goodwill deliveries, with a list that includes 300 whole chickens, 8,000 pounds of turkey patties and 500,000 pounds of fresh produce.

"There's a lot of pressure for low-income families," said David Goodman, the food bank's executive director. "It's a time of food and gathering, but for a low-income family it's not quite the same experience. They gather around what?"

This week about 450 volunteers will be spending roughly 1,125 hours to make sure these families have plenty to create a memorable gathering. Goodman said every year he's amazed by the volunteers who give their free time to help others.

"If there's one thing all of us have in common, it's time and not having enough of it," Goodman said. "The fact that they give their time is probably the most special gift. I find that to be the most remarkable gift of all."

Compassion, Goodman said, is what drives these volunteers.

"A silver lining of this economy is that it has created a great deal of compassion," Goodman said. "Everyone has been touched by it. ... People who were hurting are hurting more and those on the edge are finding themselves in a place they never imagined, which is (having) to ask for help."

While there's a spike during the holidays, the food bank serves those in need throughout the year in Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

People in need, Goodman said, are all around us. Among those in the mix might be seniors whose retirement savings have collapsed or perhaps a couple dependent on two incomes unexpectedly losing one.

"People are in need of help," Goodman said. "We can help them and we do. ... It's more emotionally charged during the holidays, but hunger doesn't know whether it's Thanksgiving or Christmas or the day after, so the work continues."