Manna House providing happier holiday

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, families began lining up at 7:30 a.m. outside Manna House. They waited patiently for the doors to open at 10. Bill Rice of Rushing Wind Ministry smoked hot dogs for the appreciative crowd. Once inside, families had their choice of chicken or ham as the main course. They were given a bag with sweet potatoes and canned goods. The final stop was selecting from a table covered with a variety of breads, boxes of apples, and desserts.

“Brandon and Jessica Steele with Grocery Outlet Bargain Market offered below cost items,” Manna House manager Bruce Bartlett said. “They are always there when we need them.”

These were the exact sentiments expressed by the needy when speaking of Manna House.

Tom Barquist, 54, of North Fork, lives on Social Security. He has two artificial hips and currently resides in a tent. “I’m thankful to God,” Barquist said. “He always provides. Without Manna House, I would have had noodles and rice for Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve donated to Manna House when I’ve been on the top side, and now that I need help, they’re there for me.”

Coarsegold resident, Helen Smith, 88, also depends on Social Security.

“By the time I pay the rent, there’s not much money left,” Smith explained. “I’m so grateful to Manna House and the volunteers here. They have made such a big difference in my life. Whenever I have anything extra, I bring it here for someone in need because I know how important it is to have a need met.”

Others who depend on work to cover living expenses find that stretching a dollar in a rough economy can prove to be a daily struggle.

Alfonso Salazar worked as a line cook for 11 years at Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino before the casino was temporarily closed in early October. He was there with his son, Jacob, 6, enjoying a hot dog before loading the car with the items he had received to feed his family.

“I have a family of eight,” Salazar said. “and it’s really hard right now ... I just hope I’m back to work soon.”

“I have four more mouths to feed,” explained Diane Cash of Coarsegold, “and that’s tough on one income.” Cash’s daughter, Nikki Stafford, and her two children, Angie Henaghen, 7, and Lavannah, 8, left Ohio and unexpectedly moved in with Cash.

“This is what it’s all about,” Bartlett said, as he gazed at the line of those in need being assisted by eager volunteers. “Today was a good turn-out. Everyone was patient. Everyone was good about following the guidelines, and everyone left happy.”

Chris Doxey, after picking up her bag of food, commented to Bartlett as she walked towards her car, “This was just perfect and such a blessing. Now I can have some river people over for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s so important to share with others in need.”

Christmas give-away

Sign-ups for the Christmas food give-away are going on now to Dec. 19; toy sign-ups are also going on now to Dec. 15. The Christmas give-away will be held, Dec. 22, and Manna House will then be closed from Dec. 23 to Jan. 5.

The clothing section of Manna House will not accept donations after Dec. 12, which will give the volunteers time to prepare Santa’s toy shop.