A few days before Thanksgiving, her husband lost his job. She looked at her two children and felt a pang as she thought of how to tell them they couldn’t afford a Thanksgiving dinner this year.
One day, Genevieve Sosa, 41, a wife and mother of two, was gathered with 15 other families in the low-income housing unit her family was staying in. The complex manager had asked them to meet him underground in the car port. With no idea what to expect, Sosa, her husband, and her children walked down the stairs and saw a group of boys with baskets of food, each filled with a Thanksgiving feast.
Relief washed over her as she realized her family and children would have a Thanksgiving dinner after all.
Every year since 1997, Gamma Zeta Alpha’s Delta Chapter at CSUN holds an annual turkey drive, supplying low-income families in the San Fernando Valley with a complete meal for Thanksgiving. The meal includes a Thanksgiving turkey, a two-liter beverage, mashed potatoes, stuffing and a pie.
The turkey drive team includes 20 brothers, delivering Thanksgiving baskets to families throughout Los Angeles, Arleta, Pacoima, San Fernando and North Hills.
The process begins with mapping out the route the team will take to make the journey more efficient. Then, the students pick up the turkeys at 5 a.m. and prepare the baskets. Finally, each student personally delivers the package to the family. With more than 100 baskets to deliver, it usually takes the team from 7 a.m. to midnight to finish the entire trip.
In order to maintain their efforts and afford the meals, the fraternity rigorously raises funds throughout the semester. Their most profitable fundraiser is the Halloween event Diabolique, allowing the team to bump up the number of families they deliver packages to each year. Almost 2,000 individuals attended the event this year on Oct. 26.
Fraternity brother, Luis Preciado, 20, a Chicano/a studies major and junior at CSUN, is one of the 20 team members who deliver the meals.
“When Gamma Zeta Alpha first started the drive in 1997, they had 50 families on the list,” Preciado said. “This year we are able to help 150 families who live in shelters and low-income housing.”
Alumnus Lalo Lopez, 40, a former brother and major in business administration, said at one point the team provided meals for 300 families. Lopez, one of the founders of the Delta Chapter at CSUN, said the turkey drive was an attempt for community involvement among the first fraternity members.
“We were looking for a way to give back to the community,” Lopez said. “We saw other fraternities adopting a family and we thought, ‘Instead of giving money to an organization, why don’t we personally help as many families as we can?’”
Lopez commended the current fraternity brothers for continuing the legacy regardless of the fact that they are students with busy lives, jobs, and classes. He encouraged all students to help the Delta chapter in their efforts to provide meals for families in need.
“I am very proud of them,” Lopez said. “They are learning that it’s important to be social and stay focused on academics, but they also have to give back when you can. It’s the balance that counts. Dec. 3 is the 20th anniversary of the turkey drive. I’m glad to hear it is still going strong.”
Sosa’s family has received the help of Gamma Alpha Zeta for three years. And according to her, each year they await the arrival of the boys once again.
“The boys are so welcoming, giving us hugs and wishing us a happy Thanksgiving,” Sosa said. “God bless them for being so caring and kind. It is well-appreciated.”
To hear interview with fraternity brother, Luis Preciado, click here.
Map of Turkey Drive route:
View Turkey Drive Route in a larger map