Peggy Burklin: Toni Thompson and ‘Bring your turkey to work day’
One day I remember reading an article in The Union regarding the need for turkeys for the Nevada County Food Bank and the upcoming holidays.
I made a phone call and a wonderful friendship began. I also became an advocate for the Food Bank that lasted until I left.
When I retired from the county, Toni Thompson, then-executive director of the Food Bank, gave me a lovely luncheon at her country club. It was a grand gesture that I never will forget. But more importantly I will never forget Toni and the impression of humanity she made on me.
I am using the past tense because Toni passed in September at the age of 66 due to heart problems.
We met through a phone call I made to the Food Bank after reading said article. As she liked to tell the story, “One day this female calls me and like a mobster says, ‘I can get turkeys.’”
And, I did. Until I left Nevada County 12 years ago, I would have a “Bring your Turkey to Work” campaign. There were 2,000 employees and I just made up fliers and passed them to all departments. In that time, hundreds of turkeys were donated plus cash and/or grocery store gift certificates. Toni must not have believed me with that first call because when the turkeys were to be picked up, she sent a pickup truck … we needed a large industrial truck as the employees were overwhelmingly generous.
I did not stop there. I worked in Social Services and we had an internal contest of which of the nine units would contribute the most can goods and the winner got a pizza lunch. Competition was strong and I doubt if a package of Top Ramen could be found in the county.
At Christmas I started a silent auction of Christmas, shall we say, white elephants. Instead of bidding money, one had to bid can goods. Again, an overwhelming response and the big truck had to be sent out. We not only filled the coffers of the Food Bank but had a great time, especially at Christmas knowing we were all collectively donating to a great cause.
I do not know if these events continue to this day … I like to hope so.
But back to Toni. She always had a smile on her face, never a negative word about anyone and accomplished great things in the 20 years there. She opened a thrift store which enabled the Food Bank to purchase a refrigerated truck for surplus farm goods, and I often saw her contribute to various charities while she was out and about. I know for all the years she worked there, she donated her paycheck back to the Food Bank!
Toni had a huge heart for those struggling in the community. No one was ever sent away hungry and she always took the time to listen to their story.
According to The Union article, “For her, food was not a privilege. It was something everyone should have. Her kindness and generosity will always be remembered. She would give everything and think of herself last.”
I have yet to meet anyone of her caliber and am extremely grateful that she was in my life, albeit for too short of a time.
The Food Bank recently dedicated its warehouse and business center to Toni, naming it the “Toni Carmen Thompson Building.” This means she will forever and justifiably live on in Nevada County, California. Yes!
Peggy Burklin lives in Mission Viejo.
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