Mony Nop knows what it’s like to go hungry.

Born in Cambodia under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, Nop and his family survived the Killing Fields for the first six years of his life. After his family fled the country, he spent the next five years in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines, where disease and starvation were rampant. In 1983, he and his family arrived in the U.S. “penniless and without the ability to speak English.” 

Today, Nop is the embodiment of the American Dream — a longtime Livermore police officer turned Tri-Valley realtor and community leader. And he has transformed his unlikely success story into a mission to help others, starting Rising Young Leaders, which provides leadership training to middle and high school students, and co-founding the Tri-Valley Nonprofit Alliance, which brings together local nonprofits to pool resources and collaborate.

His most recent endeavor is the popular Mony Nop Turkey Drop, held annually to benefit Tri-Valley Haven, a community shelter that supports families who have experienced domestic violence or homelessness. Now in its fifth year, the donation drive collects frozen turkeys, gift cards and cash donations for the shelter’s Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway, helping feed more than 1,500 people in need.

“For 11 years of my life, I went to bed hungry every night,” Nop said. “With the support of our great communities, we hope that no one will go to bed hungry during the holidays.”

Unsurprisingly, the demand for aid is even greater this year due to the ongoing pandemic, explained Christine Dillman, director of development at Tri-Valley Haven.

“We’ve already signed up almost 800 families (for the giveaway),” she said. “Last year, we did about 600. And we’re not done signing up.”

Volunteers, seen here from last year’s Mony Nop Turkey Drop, are looking to reach even more families in need this holiday. (Photo courtesy of Tri-Valley Haven)

Further complicating matters is the economic crisis that has forced several corporate and individual donors to drop out of supporting this year’s turkey giveaway. 

Fortunately, Nop has stepped up to fill in the gap: For every turkey collected, the Mony Nop Real Estate Team will donate $5.

“This is something near and dear to my heart,” he said. “No matter how hard things get, I want to make sure I can still help.”

“The fact that Mony is still doing this is huge,” said Dillman. “We always seem to find a way (to help everyone). Sometimes it’s last minute, and sometimes we’re begging people, but we always pull it out. That’s because it’s not just us doing it. It’s us, it’s Mony, it’s Grocery Outlet, it’s the community.”

Usually a bustling community event, the Turkey Drop will operate differently this year. Taking place on Nov. 22 at the Livermore Police Station, the donation drive “will be a drive-thru,” explained Dillman, with volunteers wearing PPE and collecting donations from participants’ vehicles.

Nop hopes to collect more than 500 turkeys at the event — good for a matching donation of $2,500 from his real estate company. You can also donate cash or turkeys to Tri-Valley Haven at the Grocery Outlet in Livermore throughout the month of November.

“Do everything you can to help people. Be the light in the darkness for them,” Nop said. “You may not be able to give a lot, but maybe you can match and give $5. That can help out so much.”

The Mony Nop Turkey Drop will take place on Sunday, Nov. 22, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at 1110 S. Livermore Ave. You can also donate through Tri-Valley Haven’s site.