With the holiday season fast approaching, the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County has reached out to local businesses to assist it with a food drive to collect 9,000 turkeys before Thanksgiving.

Donations to the Stamford-based nonprofit organization have been down this year, said Kate Lombardo, its executive director.

"We're getting 20 percent less food than we give out," she said. "Our silo is empty."

Lombardo spoke at a Monday afternoon news conference at Nagi Jewelers on High Ridge Road. The store has volunteered to collect cash donations, food and turkeys.

In what appeared to be a surprise announcement, owner Nagi Osta agreed to kick off the food drive by donating 310 turkeys in honor of the store's 31st anniversary.

"We'd like to see other businesses step up to the plate," said Helen Koven, a public relations consultant who represents Osta.

Osta said he was making it a personal challenge to collect 1,000 turkeys for the Food Bank.

Lombardo stressed the effect the tough economy has had on families and businesses.

Her parents struggled to make ends meet. During the 1960s, they lost their home to foreclosure, she said. She tearfully recalled the joy she experienced as a child when her family received unexpected food donations on Thanksgiving.

"Their lives are going to be altered," she said about the young recipients.

Monday's event cast a different spotlight on Osta, who has been in the news regarding his ongoing battle to build a housing development and day care facility next to his store on Bradley Place in Stamford. Many High Ridge residents have strenuously opposed the project during public hearings before the Zoning Board, saying it would create traffic congestion.

Koven, who has attended the hearings, said Osta has been involved in food drives throughout the year. Throughout the proceedings, the businessman has reminded neighbors and zoning board about his charitable activities.

Osta held a frozen turkey and posed for a photograph with Lombardo.

He brushed off the subject of his development Monday, at one point saying he no longer cared whether the project was approved.

"This is what matters," he said.