There’s always action at Azad’s Martial Arts Center. But only once a year does it get as busy as it was on Wednesday night during the 31st annual Basket Brigade, when almost 200 volunteers gathered to assemble 230 Thanksgiving meal baskets for local families.

The operation ran like clockwork. High school students stacked baskets in preparation for transport and broke down boxes during breaks in the action. Children lugged frozen turkeys and pumpkin pies from their packages to the long tables that acted as the assembly line, dodging the adults scanning for areas of need. By the end of the evening, 230 families had festive meals delivered to their front door.

Children and others shuttle basket items to the assembly line where they are assembled.
Children were among the busiest helpers during the basket assembly, transporting stuffing, green beans, potatoes, turkeys, and more to those working their way down the assembly line. (Luke Reid / University Communications)

Site coordinator Traci Ciapponi (Physical Education, ’93; MA, Physical Education, ’95), a professor in the department of Kinesiology, kept the action organized and running smoothly. “The thing that always hits home, especially when we start assembling the baskets, is the number of people who want to help and how much we can accomplish together in a short amount of time,” said Ciapponi. Now in her ninth year as a volunteer and first as site coordinator, she follows in the footsteps of Susan Green, chair of Chico State’s Multicultural & Gender Studies Department, who led the Chico site for many years and has now moved to coordinate at a different site. “We created 230 baskets in 40 minutes. When that’s done, they ask, ‘What else can we do?’”

Volunteers make their way down a line of folding tables, collecting all the basket ingredients along the way.
Volunteers make their way down a line of folding tables, collecting all the basket ingredients along the way. (Luke Reid / University Communications)

Farshad Azad, a lecturer in the department of Kinesiology and owner of Azad’s, describes the baskets as “a gift from the community.” He earned his Master of Public Administration degree from Chico State in 1990, served on the University Advisory Board from 2006 to 2018, and received Chico State’s Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2015. He was not in attendance Wednesday at the Chico location. Instead, he was making his way to other assembly and distribution sites in Paradise, Orland, Thermalito, and Colusa. Altogether, approximately 850 baskets were assembled and distributed in the North Valley.

This year’s Basket Brigade has now concluded, but there are still plenty of opportunities to pitch in before the end of the month.

Chico State Basic Needs Project

Research shows that approximately half of Chico State students experience food insecurity, which is a major barrier to student success. Being a starving student is not a rite of passage. So, on Giving Tuesday, November 29, Wildcats across the country will rally to support students with gifts to the University’s Basic Needs Project, designed to meet that need, and more. A gift of any size will help continue to provide nutritious food, short-term emergency housing, and emergency grants for students in need.

Between now and Giving Tuesday, staff council is facilitating a non-perishable food drive with bins in each building, with a friendly competition to see which buildings/areas on campus will collect the most products.

Get more information and/or donate here.

The Run for Food

The Run for Food, which takes place on Thanksgiving morning at One Mile Recreation Area in Lower Bidwell Park, is one of Chico’s largest events, bringing together approximately 5,000 people each year. As such, all are invited to take part as a volunteer or participant. Race organizers are still searching for folks willing to work as course monitors or help with setup and cleanup. Volunteer registration closes on Sunday, November 20. Those wishing to participate in the 5K can still register online through Thursday morning prior to the start of the race, or in person at Fleet Feet in Downtown Chico on Tuesday and Wednesday, or on race morning beginning at 7 a.m. in the park. The 5k begins at 9 a.m. Funds go to support the Jesus Center, which provides transitional housing, vocational training programs, and much more to the community.

Volunteer or sign up to run/walk.

The 6th Street Center for Youth

The mission of the 6th Street Center for Youth provides services to youth ages 14 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness, marginally housed, or runaways. Donations of tents, hand warmers, rain gear, adult-sized clothing, and gift cards are appreciated and can be dropped off Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 130 West Sixth Street. A more detailed list is available on their website, along with a link to an Amazon Wishlist.

Chico State students, faculty, and staff played significant roles in Wednesday’s Basket Brigade, and will do the same to support the Basic Needs Project, the Run for Food, and the 6th Street Center for Youth in the coming weeks. You’re invited to join in the fun and make a difference.