For the past few years a group known as Riverbank Cares has joined forces to bring families in Riverbank a complete holiday meal along with a few extra tidings. This year, the distribution to help make that happen was held this past Friday, Dec. 18.
Normally the food giveaway is held at the Community Center, however this year the center was booked for another event so Scott McRitchie stepped up and secured the hall at St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church.
“Scott really came through for us when we were looking for a different venue,” stated Cal Campbell, Riverbank City Councilmember, and a volunteer Riverbank Cares member.
“There seemed to be no other alternatives with sufficient space so I offered our Church hall,” added Scott McRitchie. “As we have regular food distribution on two days during the week, it was felt that needy people were already familiar with the location, which would be a help.”
Riverbank Cares is a combination of the Riverbank Rotary Club, Riverbank Christian Food Sharing, members from St. Vincent de Paul and few other volunteers that see a need and want to help.
The organization was originally created by McRitchie, Carla Strong, Norma Manriquez, Lynda Silva, Richard and Julie Boos, and Campbell.
“We quickly realized that a lot of people resist donating to a cause associated with a specific church or religion,” added Strong. “Our goal is to feed those in need in Riverbank regardless of their religious preference so we formed an official nonprofit in the last 18 months.”
The Christmas Food Program was supposed to start at 10 a.m. Friday, however participants were lined up earlier than that and with the frigid temperatures, organizers opened the doors early.
“I feel the event went very well,” said McRitchie. “We had plenty of food and we opened about 45 minutes earlier than planned, due in large part to the efficiency of the volunteers.
“The majority of the needy folks were served prior to the time we were supposed to start.”
There were several members of the Riverbank Cares organization on hand to walk the people through the line to get their holiday meal which included canned goods, breads, a turkey or ham, rice, beans, pastries, and a few extras.
“I love being the greeter at the front of the line so I can talk to everybody when they come through; I’ve come to know most of them now,” stated Strong, of Riverbank Cares. “The very first year I was so taken back when we handed a young man a turkey for his larger family, in a very quiet voice he handed it back to me and said his family was homeless and had no way to cook a turkey.
“I remember feeling so ashamed that I had embarrassed him. Thankfully those who had been doing this longer than I, had planned ahead. I was able to hand him a large canned ham.”
With their spirit of caring and sharing, Riverbank Cares distributed approximately 270 meals to families in the community.
Volunteers were able to make 65 deliveries to seniors and disabled residents that were unable to attend the food giveaway.
To have food delivered on Friday, residents had to register by Dec. 16.
“I set up a more delivery-friendly system for us to use,” said Norma Manriquez. “The volunteers really liked the new set up and we had all but two deliveries successfully delivered.”
One lady in particular, Isabel Gutierrez, approached Lynda Silva, Riverbank Cares member with a smile, appreciation and a candy cane.
“I think it’s (food giveaway) awesome,” expressed Gutierrez. “I come every year; it is really nice since a lot of us don’t have what we need sometimes.”
All the volunteers were in good spirits and some of them receive food and volunteer their time to the Riverbank Cares organization.
“Most of them are so thankful for the food that it makes all our efforts very rewarding and for me very humbling,” stated McRitchie. “Many of these families have endured or are trying to cope with some very tough problems and yet seem so upbeat, that it makes my problems seem so trite by comparison.
“Another thing was to stand back and watch all the volunteers doing such a great job, and enjoying the chance to do something helpful for people in their community.”
“Next year we will be back at the community center,” said Manriquez. “Like always, we could not do what we do without all our volunteers, especially the food pantry volunteers that understand how much food is needed and how to make all the donations stretch out to feed so many.
“We help and God always multiplies the food for us.”