By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Community Effort Meets Need
A turkey or chicken went into every box along with the rice, beans, flour, pasta, other staples and fresh vegetables as Christian Food Sharing volunteers prepared their food distribution for the Friday before Thanksgiving.

"We didn't put in dressings this year," the group's leader Bernice Bick commented. "They got other extras."

The line of applicants for the free food distribution on Nov. 20 appeared long. It stretched out of the door and up High Street, when the Scout Hall opened its doors at 9 a.m. But it appeared there were actually fewer applicants this year than on the comparable date last year.

"Last year's figures were higher, 157 families totaling 573 persons," said Yolanda Guider, who has been a volunteer since the group was formed almost 20 years ago and keeps tabs on the number of recipients. "This year it was 144 families for 305 people. Last Thanksgiving was about the time people began losing their jobs and were feeling the strain of being out of work."

Several local churches also have regular food distributions. The St. Frances Catholic Church and the Assembly of God held theirs on Tuesday of last week and she thinks about 30 families went to those instead of Christian Food Sharing, Guider said in seeking an explanation for the numbers being down from last year and lower than what was expected this year. Christ the King Episcopal Church was due to give free food to members in need on Saturday.

Meanwhile at the Scout Hall, volunteers bustled in the back room, grumbled about the chilly work of pulling frozen turkeys out of the walk-in freezer, and packed box after box of goodies behind the counter.

Recipients breathed a sigh of relief once they got out of the line and through the door into the warm room, visited the tables to ensure they were qualified to receive the food and then took a seat for the wait.

Recipients are restricted to people living within the Riverbank school district and meeting the low income guidelines set by Stanislaus County, said Bick.

Christian Food Sharing has been operating for close to 20 years and depends entirely on volunteers to gather the food and store it earlier in the week and then distribute it on Fridays.

There are at least 20 volunteers in all but they weren't all there on Friday. Betty Asman, who has worked for the group almost as long as Bick and Guider, was in charge of the counter. Other veteran workers, Ida Kennedy and Wanda Wallace were helping Tammy Yochum and Stanley Wecksler prepare the boxes.

The volunteers give their time and effort for free, spending at least one morning earlier in the week gathering and stacking food besides Friday mornings handing it out.

The money to buy the food - only so much is donated - comes mainly from a federal government Emergency Food & Shelter Program grant of about $20,000 supplemented by donations. Bick noted one anonymous donor gives $1,000 a year.

SaveMart donated fresh produce this year, she added, but there is always the need for more.

"We always give them potatoes or onions and rice and beans and pasta plus fresh vegetables or fruit," said Bick. "And there's always some kind of meat even if it's only hamburger or hot dogs. Today it's turkey and chicken for Thanksgiving."