Return of Thanksgiving give-away possible

mvoorhis@sierrastar.comNovember 5, 2013 

In an atmosphere of utter disbelief, sincere concern, and brainstorming for solutions, heartfelt generosity is trickling in from area residents, businesses and organizations as they rally around Manna House. Word spread fast after a story in the Oct. 17 Sierra Star stated the traditional Manna House Thanksgiving and Christmas food give-a-ways were being cancelled due to increased demand and decreased donations.

The general consensus seems to be that Manna House has done so much for so many over the past 31 years that it's now time to step-up to help this non-profit ministry during its financial struggle.

"I've received checks or cash in varying amounts from individuals and churches," volunteer director Tom Nicolulis said. "Other board members and myself have also received numerous calls from people asking what they can do to help."

While Nicolulis is extremely grateful for any and all donations, he is also a realist and with Manna House experiencing a 60% reduction in 2013 donations, it would be unreasonable for him to ignore the possibility of this trend continuing onward, given the existing economy.

"You know, people are just so tired of being poor, of being at their wit's end," Nicolulis continued. "There are so many people who have the heart to help, but sometimes finances hold them back."

Donations sought for Manna House Thanksgiving turkeys

In an effort to preserve the Manna House Thanksgiving food give-a-way tradition, the Sierra Star, in partnership with Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, is spearheading a fundraising drive to collect funds for the purchase of turkeys. The goal is to raise enough revenue to purchase 150 (14-16 pound) turkeys.

Checks can be made out to Manna House, and either mailed to Yosemite Bank, P.O. Box 2060, Oakhurst Calif, 93644, or dropped off at the bank in the Raley's shopping center. It is important that "Manna House Thanksgiving" be written as a reference on the check.

Both Betty Linn, Sierra Star publisher, and Brandon Steele, owner of Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, were delighted to be in a position to help such a worthy cause for a long-standing ministerial organization.

Pending the success of the Star's and other fundraising efforts, a tentative date for the Thanksgiving food give-away is 10 a.m. - noon, Monday, Nov. 25 at Manna House. Sign-ups begin Nov. 4 through Nov. 22, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Food drive

Sierra Historic Sites Association president, Dwayne Turpin, has initiated a two-week-long food drive, which started last Monday, in an effort to collect non-perishables, canned goods and dry foods for Manna House. Large bins have been placed in front of the Fresno Flats museum along School Road (427) for effortless drop-off.

Holiday pies for sale

Even though she "robs Peter to pay Paul," herself, nothing is holding back Shelly Arnest, a former Manna House volunteer from 2006 to 2009. Despite the fact that there are three generations in her household living on a limited income, she is determined to assist Manna House in her own small way.

Arnest, a Christian and not one to procrastinate, tries her best to act on ideas as they come to her. What came to her at a recent Sunday church service was to help Manna House by doing something she knows and loves — baking pies with a southern flair and Caribbean flavor — with all proceeds going to Manna House.

Because she buys in bulk, not one cent of her sales will go towards the ingredients. "If I sell one pie today for $15, Manna House will receive $15," Arnest continued. "If it hadn't been for Manna House and my church, there were times my family would have been homeless and my grandchildren would have had nothing to wear."

Forced into an early retirement, Arnest was unable to find work in the area and commuting was out of the question because of transportation issues. Still, she considers herself luckier than most, given the fact that she has a roof overhead, has food on the table and has started her own catering business, Taste of Soul.

Bell ringing

One proven revenue-maker is the annual holiday bell ringing. The income from this will be set aside to help feed the needy throughout 2014.

In an effort to get the most for the dollar, Nicolulis plans on purchasing carbohydrates like beans, rice, soups, pasta and sauce because "it sticks to the bones."

"We really want to thank our community for stepping up to the plate to help us in our hour of need," Nicolulis said. "I'm not worried about the future of Manna House. I believe we're in God's hands, that this community will continue to support and bless us."

"This community needs Manna House," Arnest emphasized. "I know about Salvation Army and Goodwill, but there's nothing like Manna House — absolutely nothing."

To order a pie from Arnest, call (559) 676-7151.

Manna House is an all-volunteer entity, founded in 1982, for the specific purpose of providing a Christian emergency food and clothing bank to those in need.

The non-profit organization can be found on Facebook and donations, which are tax deductible, can be made through PayPal. "It (break-ins) makes your heart sink. We would like to get to talk to these people and let them know that grace abounds and … if they want food we'll give it to them. We know that good prevails in Oakhurst."

— Tom Nicolulis

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