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Feast, Hope Served For The Community
Getting ready to dig in to a full plate of deliciousness was this little youngster, Aiden Garcia, who enjoyed a free meal with his family on Saturday night hosted by the Community Praise Tabernacle church. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS


The glow from the church in the dark evening sky and the humming of conversation along with laughter was the welcome when entering the Family Christmas Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 5 held at the Community Praise Tabernacle church on Stanislaus Street in Riverbank.

A family feast was served up for the community hosted by Community Praise Tabernacle and catered by Grillin & Chillin out of Tracy.

Jim Vierra, owner of Grillin & Chillin, has donated his services to other charity events throughout the Central Valley and was prepared to feed up to 450 at the event in Riverbank that included grilled chicken pieces with their own special rubs and sauces, potato salad, rolls, and homemade cookies.

“When we do these events we never set expectations,” said Vierra. “We just want to make the best chicken and provide a great meal to those in need. Our menu is very simple: we grill the best chicken.

“A complete Grillin & Chillin meal.”

Although the Community Praise church hosts a Thanksgiving meal for the community, Youth ministry leader Eve Nash had an idea that presented itself to host a Family Christmas Celebration for the community as well. Nash discussed the idea with Pastor Elias Cordova Jr. and he gave his approval and support which led to the event.

“I honestly believe the event was a success,” added Nash. “Our whole goal was, as silly as it sounds, to spread Christmas cheer.”

The free sit down meal was open to anyone that wanted to have a warm meal and socialize with other members of the community.

The church volunteers decorated the hall and provided all the paper products, drinks, beans, and corn. Members of the church including Youth Leaders Erendira and Joel Villanueva along with church member Lauren Cordova walked around the downtown area and knocked on residents’ doors inviting them to attend the free dinner. They also met up with some youngsters at the skate park that decided to attend the Christmas dinner as well.

There were over 250 people that were served throughout the event, enjoying the delicious meal that many raved about along with several guests that expressed their appreciation to the church for hosting such a wonderful event, explained Nash.

“We even had a woman who drove all the way from Sacramento,” Nash said of the diner who heard about the event on a Christian radio station. “She sat next to my mom and toward the end of the evening she told my mom she felt she had been ministered to.”

At the beginning of the dinner Mayor Richard O’Brien and Vice Mayor Darlene Barber-Martinez stopped by to support the dinner for the community.

Nash’s brother-in-law Frank Rodriguez had T-shirts donated, New Testaments, and Bible promise books for guests that wanted them. Pastor Cordova also took some time to pray with an individual that was in need of some spiritual guidance. Guests as well as church members sang holiday songs that prompted several guests to join in and clap.

The church hall was filled with warmth, smiles, laughter, and chatter along with people that enjoyed a very tasty grilled chicken dinner and all the extras.

“The reason why we do this is to give back to our communities and hopefully make a positive impact in someone’s life by providing free delicious meals,” expressed Vierra. “This is not just about homeless people but also for those who are barely getting by and need a little relief.”

“I also wanted to stress that about maybe around 25 percent of individuals that were fed were actual church members of Community Praise Tabernacle,” stated Nash. “This was not just for us, but for all families in our community. Our church’s greatest desire is to be a beacon of support to the families in our community.”