A close call with death brought Ruben Bajo, an ex-professional boxer from Riverside, to a place he never expected to be, the seat of a "Jesus Christ is Lord" Food Bank semi-truck.
During a high-speed chase as a teenager, Bajo's run from the law ended when he slammed into a semi-truck, causing him to flatline and then slip into a coma for a month. While unconscious, Bajo said he had a vision -- that God said he'd drive a truck, feeding God's people.
When he woke from his coma, Bajo traded in his days in the boxing ring for a new career providing food to those in need.
"I couldn't fight, I couldn't hurt people anymore," Bajo said. "I had to help people and I wasn't that way before."
Bajo is now part-owner of Jesus Christ is Lord Food Bank, in charge of a fleet of trucks that have gone all over the world delivering food to those in need with his wife Doreen and Chihuahua Mariah. Bajo came to Oakhurst Sunday with $1,500 worth of free groceries for families thanks to Candi MacAlpine with Destiny Training Center, Inc.
MacAlpine got the idea for a local grocery giveaway last year, and contacted Bajo to come to Oakhurst for the first time in January after their church received enough donations to buy the food. MacAlpine said the church plans to do a grocery giveaway twice a year, with a third to come sometime next year.
"Our vision is 'love them until they ask why,'" MacAlpine said. "We're not trying to get them to join any church, we're trying to show them the love of God right where they are in life with no expectations."
Together, MacAlpine, Bajo and a small army of volunteers helped hand out food to every family that showed up to the Grocery Discount Center in Oakhurst Sunday afternoon. Within the first hour, more than 200 people had already come through for food MacAlpine said.
Some who came for free groceries Sunday said they were kind of embarrassed to come at first, thinking there would only be a handful of people at the give-away. Instead of the huge turnout created lines of people across the length of the parking lot.
"There's such a huge need right now," said Doreen Bajo, Ruben's wife.
Sunday's grocery give-away included vegetables, rice, beans, granola bars, chips and drinks along with blankets, Christmas ornaments and clothes. Remaining items were donated to Oakhurst's Manna House.
"I love to see the community come together to help the community because we could all be in the same place they are at any time," MacAlpine said.