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Food Giveaway Draws Long Lines
They started lining up outside the Riverbank Community Center for Friday's food giveaway by 7 a.m. - some say by 2 a.m. - and by the time they got inside the doors they were cold and tired but the wait was worth it.

Riverbank Cares, a loose knit organization of local groups that extend charity in the form of food, toys and presents the year around and especially at this season, came through with the makings of a Christmas feast, turkey, chicken or ham, plenty of vegetables and all the trimmings.

The volunteers had prepared enough bags and boxes of food for 400 people and actually served about 300, according to Carla Strong, one of the event organizers, along with Scott McRitchie, Richard Boos, Linda Silva and Yolanda Guider.

A few food applicants turned up in wheelchairs and scooters. But for those who could not reach the center under their own steam, organizers had food boxes delivered to their homes - about 75 of them.

This is a scene that occurs every Friday at the Scout Hall on High Street where the Christian Food Sharing group hands out donated food. Only this past week was on a larger scale as Christian Food Sharing was joined by groups like St. Vincent de Paul of the St. Frances Catholic Church, Riverbank Rotary Club and numerous others.

There were multiple volunteers to greet and register the applicants, shepherd them through the line until they were loaded down with groceries and wave them out the door with a candy cane as a final gift.

McRitchie said while everything eventually worked out, there was an initial crisis when the dozen shut-ins they delivered to last year turned into 70-plus this time and more boxes had to be packed in haste. Once that was handled, the doors opened, only five minutes late, and applicants began to move smoothly through the line.

Volunteer Carlos Ramos explained why one man was lifting paddles, as though at an auction. He was signaling to order up a turkey, a chicken or a ham depending on the size of the family for the next person in line.

City human services specialist Norma Torres Manriquez, who said she was there as a volunteer not an organizer, said the arrangement whereby administrative analyst Luanne Bain has police officers and high school youngsters deliver food baskets to the senior citizens apartments had been rolled into this event so the Housing Authority residents still received their Christmas gifts.

Strong said she wants to thank Riverbank Rotary for monetary donations and volunteers, O'Brien's Market for "a tremendous amount" of donated food, Riverbank School District students for their canned food drive, St. Vincent de Paul and Riverbank Christian Food Sharing for food donation and volunteers, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Fighters Union Local #3399, Riverbank Cares committee members, Riverbank Karate for Kids, Casa del Rio Family Resource Center, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District, Riverbank New Life Church, Sheriff's Team of Active Retired Seniors (STARS) and all the local businesses and organizations that helped collect donations of food (and toys) at their establishment to help make the holidays brighter for all.