CA., November 3, 2003 - Thanksgiving is coming early this year to
fire-ravaged Southern California as leaders and members of the Morongo
Band of Mission Indians deliver thousands of hot turkey dinners
to evacueesat one of the largest Red Cross shelters in the region.
The gift of food by tribal
members is only the beginning. Morongo Tribal Chairman Maurice Lyons
also announced that the tribe is donating one million dollars to
the Riverside County Chapter of the American Red Cross. It is the
largest contribution in the tribe's history.
"We come here today
as volunteers and neighbors," Chairman Lyons told the families
that have been driven from their homes by the one of the worst fire
disasters in California history. "Indian people know what it
means to lose one's home. Sharing this gift of food, from our Indian
family to yours, is part of our tradition, extending back to the
Chairman Lyons and members
of the Morongo Tribal Council were joined at the event by local
leaders and elected officials including: Congressman Jerry Lewis,
State Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte, State Senators Jim Battin
and Ray Haynes, Assembly Members Russ Bogh, Bob Dutton and Dennis
Hollingsworth, Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley and San
Bernardino County Supervisor Dennis Hansberger.
The Morongo tribe has been
providing turkeys at Thanksgiving to families in need throughout
California for the past decade. Their turkey giveaway is one of
the largest in the state. Last year the Morongo tribe delivered
1,300 turkeys to residents of Riverside County and 2,000 more in
California enabling thousands of Thanksgiving meals to be served
to those in need. This year's special effort on behalf of the evacuees
represents a massive expansion of that program.
The million-dollar donation
from the Morongo Band will be used by the Riverside County Chapter
of the American Red Cross in its local preparedness and disaster
relief efforts on behalf of the residents of Riverside County. The
Morongo reservation is also located in Riverside County.
Local chapters of the American
Red Cross have been forced to draw on funds from the national organization
to meet the fire emergency. Overall, the relief effort throughout
Southern California is projected to cost the American Red Cross
an estimated three million dollars.
"We are deeply grateful
that our tribal gaming has enabled us to help our neighbors in this
way," said Chairman Lyons. "The voters of California,
when they approved tribal gaming, expected it to help strengthen
Indian communities. But in fact, it is doing that and more, producing
benefits for the entire region."
In accepting the million
dollar donation from the tribal leaders, Scott Kiner, American Red
Cross Riverside County Chapter board member, remarked on the Morongo
Band's long record of generosity and community service: "The
Morongo Tribe's commitment to enhancing the quality of life in all
our communities never stops. Month by month, year after year, their
generosity benefits organizations and community groups large and
Volunteers from the Morongo
tribe will be delivering hot turkey lunches to other shelters in
the region throughout the coming week. The tribe will also continue
to serve daily hot breakfasts for more than 1,200 adults and children
at the shelter in San Bernardino. Overall, the Morongo have pledged
to contribute $250,000 in food for the evacuees.
The donations of cash and
food are part of a larger program the Morongo Band has launched
in response to the fires. They are joining with other tribes to
provide relief to Indian tribes who were driven from their homes
by the devastation.
Arrowhead Mountain Spring
Water Company, which has a major bottling plant on the Morongo Indian
Reservation, has been delivering water drawn from the tribe's natural
springs to firefighters and evacuees throughout Southern California.
Riverside County Supervisor
Marion Ashley noted this early Thanksgiving was taking place at
a time when the fires themselves are subsiding. "Everyone in Southern
California has suffered a terrible ordeal. As we share this food,
we should be mindful of all that has been lost, but grateful too
that the danger seems to have passed. The process of rebuilding
can now begin."
Morongo Band of Mission Indians
The Morongo tribe operates
one of the largest and oldest Indian government gaming facilities
in California. As a direct result of the gaming operation's success,
the Morongo tribe has eliminated welfare dependency on the reservation.
The tribe now pays for a wide range of its community services including
water storage and distribution systems, waste management, road maintenance,
public safety, college education funding, recreational facilities,
Headstart program assistance and more. The Morongo tribe is the
largest private sector employer in the Banning-Beaumont region and
a major contributor to the Coachella Valley economy. The tribe presently
employs approximately 2,000 people in gaming and non-gaming tribal