Thanks to the generosity of the community and volunteer efforts, close to 300 families, representing well over 700 people in need, will have a proper Christmas meal provided through the Oakdale Community Sharing Christian Center.
It’s a pretty simple fact; people fall on hard times. Be it by job loss, family tragedy or both, life may throw a hard blow.
For Oakdale community members who find themselves in such a place, however, where hope might waver, help is offered. 2018 marks the 61st year that Oakdale Community Sharing continues to serve those in need throughout the 95361.
“The Christmas and Thanksgiving giveaways are both different in that we try to provide each of the families with more of a holiday festive meal,” Community Sharing President, Fred Rich stated.
With the Christmas holiday falling on a Tuesday, the Christmas giveaway was hosted on Tuesday, Dec. 18 so the Center may close for the holiday on Dec. 25. It will reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 1.
First established in 1957 by Gladys Lemmons, the Center was founded on the idea of supplying emergency food to those in need most of the year, as well as at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Since its inception it has grown to provide basic food needs to anywhere between 200 to 300 families on any given week.
“There’s been tremendous growth over the past ten years,” Rich said. “We used to be a pretty well-kept secret, not anymore. I think it’s more word of mouth, than anything else.”
The all-volunteer based 501(c)(3) operates at 579 Center St., Oakdale. Doors open each Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. providing families and individuals with a box of food, as well as pastries and other bread items to aid with feeding their families.
To date, Rich shared they have approximately 50 volunteers, with 25 to 30 on hand any given week to help serve their clientele. While the weekly number of volunteers is ideal, according to Rich, there is still a need for “On Call” help to aid with fill-ins or special events such as the holiday giveaways, which require more manpower.
Recipients of the program are required to complete an application determining eligibility. The criteria, simple: proof of residence in the 95361 and proof of income.
“We don’t personally police stuff,” Rich said of the procedure and the manner in which the volunteers give to clients. “Some people don’t like that, but the truth is our job is not to require documentation. Our job is to pass out food to people who need it.”
A job which is made a bit easier thanks to the generosity of businesses like Moss Rose Bakery, SaveMart, Raleys and Grocery Outlet. Financial contributions also come from community members and most notably the annual Can Tree Breakfast hosted each December by the Central Valley Association of Realtors, Oakdale Council.
According to Rich, each year the CVAR fundraising event brings in between $16,000 to $20,000.
“They provide us the opportunity to do this,” Rich said of the food donations and the variety it offers the clients through the grocery boxes.
“Basically the money we get from them is used to buy food,” he added of CVAR. “That gets us a long way.”
As an all-volunteer based program, Community Sharing also benefits from grants as well as the opportunity to shop for their pantry at Second Harvest Food Bank.
“With cash we can buy fresh,” Rich said of their spending ability. “If it has to be canned, we can buy fresh (date stamp) that is many years out. We have one simple rule for our clients, don’t serve it to a client if you wouldn’t eat it yourself.”
Now in his fourth year as president and seventh year as a volunteer, Rich is both proud, as well as encouraged by the community as well as the efforts of Community Sharing.
“Oakdale’s unbelievably generous,” he shared. “We get lemons, oranges, grapefruits, mangos donated. Dairymen donate cows and Medlen’s helps us with the processing and packaging at a very low price, which sometimes the donor covers for us.”
For additional information regarding Community Sharing call 209-847-3401; messages will be returned. To make a donation, send checks to: PO Box 1160, Oakdale, CA 95361.
“It makes you feel good,” Rich continued, speaking of the work they do. “I firmly believe that I’ve lived a very blessed life. I think it’s very nice to give back.”