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Holiday Distribution Fills Huge Need
Food for the Christmas feast and toys for the children brought a thousand or more Riverbank residents a brighter holiday during a massive distribution at the Community Center on Tuesday, Dec. 23.

Organizers were expecting 450 to 500 people and ended up counting closer to 1,200 eager recipients of the donated food and gifts, said Donna Bridges, who helped coordinate the community effort to help its more needy residents.

"Lines started forming outside the center by 6:30 or 7 a.m. The doors were opened just before 10 a.m.," Bridges explained. "They continued coming until around 1 p.m.

"We gave away every toy we had. But we still had food left even for the stragglers."

The Christian Food Sharing organization and the St. Vincent de Paul Society based at the St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church headed a variety of local groups, which pooled their efforts to see nobody in the city went without food or toys for the kids this holiday season.

Other contributing groups included the Riverbank Oakdale Transit Authority, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, Riverbank City Hall, Storer Transit, Casa del Rio, Riverbank High School, Salvation Army and several local businesses.

"We want to thank the residents of Riverbank for their generous contributions of toys and food," said Bridges. "They were very nice toys too, stuff like Karaoke and Guitar Hero. We started collecting on Dec. 1 and the response was tremendous. Kohl's department store alone donated 15 cases of stuffed animals. Target donated a $150 gift card, Best Buy chipped in and Storer Transit Systems donated $1,000 towards the food sharing. The community of Riverbank really stepped up to the plate to make this event successful."

Outside the Community Center, members of the Sheriff's Team of Active Retired Seniors carried signs saying the distribution was for Riverbank residents only and people in line would be asked for verification.

Inside, firefighters stood by the door to greet the recipients and direct the flow in the right direction, teens of Riverbank High School's Step by Step Club gave out toys to one line of people and veteran staff of Christian Food Sharing and St. Vincent de Paul Society handled another line of recipients headed for tables stacked with white grocery bags stuffed with Christmas food.

The volunteers were many and from diverse groups. A glance showed Donna Bridges of ROTA, Scott McRitchie of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Linda Silva and Betty Young of Christian Food Sharing and Scott Pettit of Karate for Kids, who often volunteers for community events.