Like so many parents around Christmas, Charity and Brian Callis of North Fork found themselves praying to God last week, sending their hopes that they would be able to provide enough for their 12 children on December 25.
The Christian missionaries, who do a lot of charity work in Asia, said they usually have enough to cover Christmas costs, but this year they struggled. They heard of the Oakhurst Manna House's annual Christmas Dinner Giveaway Dec. 20, and decided to reach out for some extra help.
They were met with a string of generosity: fixings for Christmas dinner and new toys, a donor from the community who gave them $300, and another volunteer who surprised them with a decorated Christmas tree from Oakhurst's Helping Hands Pregnancy and Parenting Center.
"We're just floored," Charity said of what they received. "There's a verse in the Bible that talks about how God is exceedingly abundant, more than we can ever ask or think, and that's what I think his provisions through the Manna House has proven. I can really see that hand and heart of Jesus reflected in this place."
Bruce Bartlett, supervisor for the Manna House's Food Department, said 350 families signed up to receive makings for Christmas dinner and 275 families signed up for toys.
The Manna House gave away 350 hams, 66 turkeys, 35 chickens -- with Raley's donating 54 of the turkeys, 30 chickens and a dozen hams, he said. The dinner giveaway also included stuffing, gravy, yams, cranberry sauce and rolls, along with 750 pounds of potatoes. Vons also donated three pallets of food, he said. About $25,000 worth of new toys were also given away, with the majority donated by the Eastern Madera County Toys for Tots campaign, Bartlett said.
"There are a lot of kids in the Mountain Area who wouldn't have a Christmas if it wasn't for the Manna House," said Rachelle Toubeaux of Coarsegold while picking out toys for two children she recently adopted to help a friend who is struggling.
"I'm blessed that the Manna House is here," said Shannon O'Brien of North Fork, a mother of four. "With me being a single mom, it's hard sometimes."
"I don't really think there is a middle class in this little town," said Kristina Alexander, who's volunteered at the Manna House for the past six years. "There's the wealthy and there's the poor."
"We do this for one reason -- in the name of Christ Jesus, the only savior of the world," said Manna House director Tom Nicolulis. "Good prevails in Oakhurst, and only because of the loving kindness of each and every person that has a heart in this community."