Valley Charities help feed hundreds of families this Thanksgiving

FRESNO, Calif.

"I've been here for five hours," said Sharon Gomez. "It's worth the wait though because they give you a bunch of stuff to eat, a good variety."

The spirit of giving was alive and well as dozens of volunteers with Open Hands Pantry and the Fresno Community Food Bank handed out soup, juice and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to the hundreds of people in line.

"We feed between 5,000 and 6,000 people a month (at Open Hands Pantry, a ministry of Life Church)," said Pastor Raul Reyna. "Today its open to the city of Fresno."

Some of the volunteers were first time visitors.

"We're just helping out, trying to make a difference in the community," said Joseph Banuelos.

While other volunteers have been serving the community for more than 18 years. Some said putting a smile on the faces is what brings them back year after year.

"The heart for people, especially during this season that don't have, that caught three buses just to get in line, that really speaks to us," said volunteer Debra de Juaraz. "When they come and wait 3 hours just to get some food, you know?"

Organizers said, every year the event gets bigger and bigger. So big, Anthi Renteria said, she wanted to among the first in line to get some food for her friends and family.

"It's not just for me and my kids I've adopted," she said. "It helps me feed the homeless in my area, because it's like a central station at my house. The ones out there by Shaw, some of them can't make it out to the Poverello House."

Volunteers handed out items like salad mix, potatoes, green onion and chicken noodle soup. Ingredients, they said, would give those who waited, an opportunity to cook a healthy and hearty meal for their families and friends at home.

"This is a spaghetti sauce and it was donated by a company from Firebaugh," said volunteer Enrique Reade. "It's called Tomatech and they're always donating to the community."

Other donors included the Manchester Center, Tow Truck Association, Downtown Kiwanis, Super Print, Louie Kee Market and Mission Auto. One organization even donated about 1300 gallons of ice cream so families would have dessert after their dinner.

"It's a blessing," said Sharon Gomez. "Because I don't have anything at home right now and I was trying to get stuff for Thanksgiving."

A blessing not only for the families struggling to put food on the table, but for those who gave back to the city of Fresno, because as Pastor Raul Reyna put it, "it's better to give then receive."

"That's what Thanksgiving is all about," he said.

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