Delivering joy, smiles and turkeys for Thanksgiving

a group of people pose for a picture holding turkeys

Staff from UCPD, Cal Dining and the Office of Student Affairs gathered to deliver Thanksgiving meals and gift cards to residents at University Village. (UC Berkeley photo)

Armed with foodstuffs and the holiday spirit of giving, several UC Berkeley Police Department (UCPD) personnel and their campus community partners recently fanned out at University Village in Albany to deliver Thanksgiving meals to nearly four dozen residents of the family student housing complex.

a man in a blue police uniform

A UCPD Security Patrol Officer knocks on a door in University Village during the annual turkey drive. (UC Berkeley photo)

For the sixth year in a row, the police department partnered with Cal Dining, University Village management and the UCPD Police Officers Union to bundle up a frozen turkey, a box of produce and a $40 gift card to a local grocery store for 45 families. The annual turkey drive is part of the department’s C.U.B.S., or Community United By Service, initiative, explains UCPD Capt. Alex Yao.

“This has definitely been a group effort, and I think I can speak for all involved that this event touches each one of us,” Yao says. “Knowing that we’re able to bring a bit of joy and smiles to these families, especially to the children, really warms our hearts.”

Cal Dining provided the turkeys and produce boxes; University Village management, the police union and UCPD provided the grocery store gift cards.

Each year, University Village residents apply to be recipients of the turkey drive, and 45 families are randomly selected through an online platform, says Jen Siecienski, associate director for graduate and family housing with Residential & Student Support Programs.

University Village, which is spread across 77 acres, is a housing community for students who are married and/or have dependents. It is owned and administered by the Berkeley campus.

The village “has been concerned about food insecurity for a very long time,” says Siecienski. “I believe strongly that this effort supports the academic mission of the institution. Student-parents cannot fully participate in and enjoy being Cal students if they are worried that their children are hungry. I appreciate UCPD’s strong support of our families. Serving student parents is a professional passion of mine, and I am honored to participate in this drive.”

The turkey drive has grown steadily in just a short time; when the program kicked off six years ago, only 30 families received the Thanksgiving package. Yao says he’s optimistic about increasing participation in the program in the years ahead.

“We are conscientious of the fact that this effort pales when compared to the range of needs that we all can help to fill in our community, and UCPD is always looking for opportunities to collaborate with campus and community organizations and groups to serve those in need,” he says.