For many North Coast families, this week will be spent preparing for a Thanksgiving feast.

As the holiday season begins, a contentious election is behind us and, four years after a worldwide meltdown, an economic recovery finally seems to be on the horizon. The latest evidence is Sonoma County's best year-over-year jobs report in more than a decade. With more people working and fewer losing their homes, we are grateful and optimistic.

We're also realists. Even in times of plenty, people struggle, and safety nets are thin. Providing shelter, food and other services requires prodigious efforts by charitable organizations — and gifts of time and money from their benefactors.

If you want to help others put food on their tables, here are some organizations in Sonoma County that provide holiday meals, groceries and other assistance for people in need:

; The Redwood Gospel Mission will host its annual Thanksgiving dinner for 5,000 people on Wednesday. Then it will gear up to do it again at Christmas. Donate online at, bring a turkey to the mission at 101 Sixth St. in Santa Rosa, or call 578-1830.

; Catholic Charities distributes 26,000 pounds of food each money to about 4,000 families through its rural food program, which serves communities away from pantries and food banks. Donate online at or call 528-8712 ext. 159.

; The Redwood Empire Food Bank supplies 149 agencies around the region including soup kitchens and food pantries. Donate online at, send contributions to 3320 Industrial Drive, Santa Rosa 95403, or call 523-7900. Each dollar donated to the Food Bank translates to $4 worth of goods distributing around the community.

; Friends in Service Here, or FISH, is an all-volunteer food bank that provides free groceries to 65,000 people a year in Sonoma County. Call 527-5151.

; The Salvation Army distributes seven tons of food to needy families each month. It is seeking volunteers for its annual red kettle campaign. Address: 93 Stony Circle, Santa Rosa 95401. Phone 542-0981.

; The Committee on the Shelterless, also known as COTS, provides shelter, transitional housing and training and serves 100,000 meals and distributes 500,000 pounds of food annually. Donate online or see a wish list and volunteer opportunities at, or send a donation to COTS, P.O. Box 2744, Petaluma 94953.

; Food for Thought, a Forestville-based food pantry, serves AIDS and HIV patients 6550 Railroad Ave., Forestville. Donate online at To volunteer, email, or call 887-1647.

; The Council on Aging delivers more than 250,000 meals annually to senior citizens and provides social, financial and legal services. You can volunteer or donate at Send donations to 30 Kawana Springs Road, Santa Rosa 95404 or call 525-0143.

; Petaluma People Services Center assists with housing, transit and employment training and serves more than 40,000 meals through its Meals and Wheels and cafe programs. Send donations to 1500A Petaluma Blvd. S., Petaluma, 94952 or call 765-8488.

Our list is a small sample of charities in our community. You can find others through the Volunteer Center, the Community Foundation of Sonoma County and online services such as and

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