‘Tis the season to be giving and thank goodness for groups like Riverbank Cares, which is a combined effort from resources including Riverbank Christian Food Sharing, St. Vincent De Paul, Rotary and the City of Riverbank that continue to provide food for the less fortunate within the Riverbank community during the holiday season.
The nucleus of Riverbank Cares is Carla Strong, Norma Torres-Manriquez, Cal Campbell, Lynda Silva and Julie and Richard Boos as the current board of directors.
Riverbank Cares came into existence about four years ago.
“Part of it had to do (with) when Scott Pettit was alive, he was really the spearhead behind the toy drive and so it was another way of bringing that together because everyone was doing their own thing with the toys and so he was the spearhead behind that,” explained Strong of getting local food and toy holiday efforts coordinated. “Now unfortunately Riverbank Cares has had to let that part of it go because we just don’t have enough people at this point to be able to spread ourselves that thin.
“Scott was very involved in the community and in our effort to get everybody together.”
The group was faced with a decision of either helping with food or making sure kids had toys so they went with making sure local families had food. One of the events that helps the group provide food to so many families is the annual turkey drive, which this year was held on Saturday, Nov. 22 on Patterson Road across from Galaxy.
Although the day was cold and rainy several volunteers including the Pack 10 Boy Scouts, a Girl Scout, and Cardozo Middle school students stood along the street with smeared, wet signs, bundled up with smiles on their faces ready to accept any donation a passerby would give. They accepted turkeys, canned goods, non-perishable food items, and monetary donations.
Despite the weather, people still came through and donated what they could which made the drive a success.
The food drive will continue through the day before the distribution in mid-December. Riverbank Cares is accepting donations at O’Brien’s Market, with locations on Patterson Road in Riverbank and Roseburg Avenue in Modesto. Turkey bucks from O’Brien’s are accepted as well so that they can purchase turkeys or other holiday trimmings.
“All of this really is to give people food for Christmas,” expressed Strong. “All the food that we gather during that period all gets taken to the Community Center; it all gets sorted and bagged.”
KCRA participates in collecting food for the giveaway with a can drive through the schools and donates a portion of them to Riverbank Christian Food Sharing, which helps coordinate the mid-December distribution. The local Rotary Club also helps out, providing manpower to the effort.
Local residents can register with the city if they are unable to attend the Christmas food giveaway on Friday, Dec. 19 at the Community Center in Riverbank and someone from the Riverbank Cares team will deliver food to them.
“So the thing that happens is this is a lot of intensive labor and they (Riverbank Christian Food Sharing personnel) are not necessarily physically able to do all of it so that is where we enlisted Riverbank Rotary to do some of the heavy lifting,” stated Strong of collecting and sorting the items for the holiday giveaway. “The other part that Rotary does is all the home deliveries so if you have seniors or disabled adults that aren’t able to get there on that (Dec. 19) day.
“I never send one person,” added Strong. “We have a team that goes out and makes the delivery to them so they are not left out. So it really is a collaborative effort to try and consolidate the resources and serve as many people as we can.”
On average they will distribute food on that one day in December to over 300 families in the community.
Currently there are approximately 10 members involved with the Riverbank Cares group and they are accepting new members that would like to volunteer. Interested parties can contact Strong at 209-404-9277 or contact any of the board members.
During this time of year the group meets once a month.
“We are not closed, we are still open as far as people joining us but they have to be like-minded in being their emphasis has to be helping the community and those in need,” stated Strong. “So that is the reason why we are doing it.”
As the Executive Director of the Howard Training Center, Strong knows all about community outreach and they have been providing meals on wheels to seniors in Riverbank for many years.
Riverbank Cares also supports Adopt a Grandparent that will begin this weekend at the WestAmerica Bank branch and at O’Brien’s Market where people can select an ornament and adopt a grandparent for the holidays.
“It is really cliché but there is nothing that is going to make you feel any better than to have someone stand there and smile and thank you for something that you have done to help them,” stated Strong. “There is no better feeling than that and you aren’t going to get it sitting at home.
“…It is a passion that I didn’t know I had until I started doing it.”