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Christian Food Sharing Continues Meeting Need
Each week they come, and the steady stream that filled the Riverbank Scout Hall Friday mornings throughout the summer hasn't shown any signs of slowing down as we head into fall.

Riverbank Christian Food Sharing provides food for the masses on a weekly basis, helping those in need throughout the community that don't have enough food to keep their families fed.

It's a tough situation, officials said, with many people finding themselves in a position where the money doesn't go as far as it used to at the market, and more money is also needed just for day to day expenses such as gas, housing and clothes.

But the volunteers at the center said they remain buoyed by their work, feeling as though they can provide a little hope along with the boxes of food.

Maria McGowan, who has volunteered her time at the center for nearly two years, said there is a sense of fulfillment.

"I like to give back a little," she said.

McGowan, with co-workers Lillian Martinez and Leeann Ruiz, were busy filling the boxes as part of an assembly line-style operation at the Scout Hall on Friday, all saying they enjoy the chance to help out. Based on the number of people in the family, boxes were stuffed with a variety of canned and boxed goods, while some fresh fruits and vegetables were also offered as an additional item. Often, said officials, local growers will bring in the produce and having the fresh items is a bonus for recipients.

"Today we also had an entire load of food from the Grocery Depot in Oakdale," said coordinator Lolly Guider, noting that a variety of items were donated through that business that they were able to add to the family boxes.

Guider said the number of people coming in each week fluctuates, but they are seeing consistently higher numbers so far this year than in the past.

"We had two weeks at 114, last week we had 140," Guider said.

The number represents families, not individuals, though there are a few single recipients.

One recent Friday saw 137 families turn out for the food distribution, accounting for 368 people.

Guider said now is typically the time when the numbers go down, as people find work for the harvest season, but that hasn't happened this year.

Figures for July showed a total of 513 families serviced over the course of four Fridays, with 1,378 people total. Of those, 14 were new families to the program, with 35 new people.

"In June, we had 635 families, or 1,696 people," Guider said.

So the July drop was slight, but August figures look to be on the rise.

"That's up, way up," Guider said of numbers now as opposed to summer months historically.

Each box has some staples, such as rice or beans, in addition to some dairy products, whatever canned meat is available and the various fresh items, in addition to other non-perishables.

Guider said they also have some ready to eat items for the homeless that don't have access to cook items.

Throughout the summer, there have been donations of peas, cauliflower, tomatoes, zucchini and more, helping round out the boxes.

And while recipients wait patiently for their number to be called, the volunteers keep up a hectic pace behind the scenes.

"My aunt got me involved," said Jacki Jaspar, "and I'm very thankful that she did.

"It's a way to get out of the house and be helpful."

Her aunt, Ida Kennedy, is a 25-year volunteer at the Riverbank Christian Food Sharing Center, one of many 'long-timers' on the job.

"It makes me feel good," said the 83-year-old. "It gives me something to do and I think it's good for a person to keep busy."

As they continue to meet the need, the program is also looking to raise money to keep the work going. Riverbank Christian Food Sharing is hosting a fundraising spaghetti dinner on Saturday, Sept. 15 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the city's Community Center, 3600 Santa Fe.

Cost is $7 for adults, children 12 and under $3 and there will also be 'bag-o-rama' drawings with tickets available for $1 each or six for $5. For tickets, call 480-6548 or 869-3710.