Manna House, a Christian food and clothing pantry for those in need, has been serving the Mountain Area for 31 years. A lot has changed since the all-volunteer pantry was formed as an extension of the Mountain Ministerial Association in 1982.
While the need for assistance continues to increase, the $34,000 in donations to date this year is down 60% of what it was last year, according to Tom Nicolulis, Manna House volunteer director.
Manna House served 17,000 men, women and children in 2008 and that number jumped to more than 25,000 in 2009. This year, that number is expected to reach 27,000.
The combination of reduced donations and the growing need of families trying to make ends meet, has made for some bleak times for Manna House so bleak that the board of directors voted recently that it would not be able to provide the traditional community food give-away for Thanksgiving and Christmas a 31-year tradition.
The vast majority of people receiving occasional assistance are not homeless. These are people that have fallen on tough times a family with a father or mother who have lost a job through no fault of their own a single mother raising three children seniors whose fixed income does not stretch as far as it used to.
The staff at the Sierra Star wanted to do what we could to make the two Holiday food give-aways happen. We knew we would all sit down to a traditional Thanksgiving meal, including roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy we also knew that would not be the case for everyone in our community.
We decided the least we could do was let the public know the food give-aways were not going to happen through the paper, our web site sierrastar.com) and Facebook, in an effort to turn the situation around. We asked people to mail or drop-off a check at Yosemite Bank and note on the check "Manna House Thanksgiving," to raise funds to purchase turkeys and other food supplies. Soon, funds started arriving at the bank.
We also learned of Shelly Arnest who was taking pie orders with all proceeds to go to Manna House, and Bikers for Christ willing to match community donations up to a total of $1,500.
Then South Gate Brewing Co. decided to dedicate a portion of its sales every Wednesday in November to assist the cause. Owners Casey and Lindsay Hawkins recognized the need and said they wanted to help area families in need through Manna House.
Randy and Anita Disney, owners of the Grocery Discount Center, provided a pallet of canned and dry-good items for the food give-away.
Brandon and Jessica Steele, owners of Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, will offer a discounted price on the turkeys.
Add those efforts to the confirmation that Manna House will receive 100 frozen chickens, along with traditional side dishes from the Fresno Food Bank.
The combined efforts of many was enough to set the date for the Thanksgiving food give-away 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., Monday, Nov. 25. Donations are still needed for Thanksgiving and even more is needed to make the Christmas food give-away a reality.
We encourage individuals, businesses, service clubs and organizations to rally around Manna House and the families it serves this Holiday season. If just 100 people would drop-off $10 at Yosemite Bank, that would pay for 75 turkeys. And if enough donations are made, both the Thanksgiving and Christmas food give-aways would serve the struggling families that need it.
This outpouring of generosity and kindness will not provide the long-term financial answer for Manna House, but will make for a brighter Holiday season for many Mountain Area families.
Do what you can to help.