The gift of giv­ing back

Lo­cal char­i­ties and vol­un­teers worked to make sure ev­ery­one in Lodi had a hot meal on Thanks­giv­ing Day

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Wes Bow­ers NEWS-SEN­TINEL STAFF WRITER

For many of Lodi’s home­less and less for­tu­nate, a warm meal is hard to find when the tem­per­a­tures drop in the win­ter months.

But on Thanks­giv­ing Day, those who oth­er­wise can’t af­ford a hol­i­day meal were able to visit two places pro­vid­ing all the fix­ings of a home-cooked tra­di­tion.

The Sal­va­tion Army and Grace and Mercy Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion spent Wed­nes­day pre­par­ing hun­dreds of Thanks­giv­ing meals for the less for­tu­nate.

The day be­gan at 8:30 a.m. for Grace and Mercy Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, where founder and di­rec­tor Ch­eryl Fran­cis was aided by a dozen vol­un­teers from the Omega Nu’s Al­pha Delta Chap­ter and Lodi Pump ir­ri­ga­tion — Lau­rel Ag and Wa­ter.

Fran­cis was ex­pect­ing to serve 250 meals — in­clud­ing tur­key, stuff­ing, mashed pota­toes, green beans, Wal­dorf salad and cran­berry sauce — be­tween 8 a.m. and noon at its 425 N. Sacra­mento St. lo­ca­tion.

“This is our way of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity,” Fran­cis said. “We have one of the most in­cred­i­ble Thanks­giv­ings ever this year, be­cause our com­mu­nity stepped up to help us out.”

Sev­eral busi­nesses and res­i­dents do­nated 200 tur­keys to Grace and Mercy this year, Fran­cis said, in­clud­ing Gro­cery Out­let, Sec­ond Har­vest Food Bank, Fiori’s Butcher Shoppe and Costco.

Tina Borra, a mem­ber of Omega Nu, said this was her third year help­ing Fran­cis ahead of the Thanks­giv­ing hol­i­day.

“I just think that at this time of year, the best gift you can give is your time,” Borra said. “Not ev­ery­one has time to get away from their lives and pre­pare food for oth­ers.”

Omega Nu is a vol­un­teer group of lo­cal women ded­i­cated to char­i­ta­ble work. Founded in 1926 in Lodi, the or­ga­ni­za­tion has helped a va­ri­ety of lo­cal char­i­ties, and was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing es­tab­lish the Lodi House, among other ac­com­plish­ments.

“Or­ga­ni­za­tions like (Grace and Mercy Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion) have the op­por­tu­nity to give and move for­ward,” Borra said. “If I can be a part of that, I’m sat­is­fied. See­ing how peo­ple give in this com­mu­nity is an in­spi­ra­tion to do more.”

Omega Nu mem­ber Ren Pham said help­ing out the foun­da­tion and those it serves was also a pos­i­tive way to spend time with loved ones dur­ing the hol­i­days.

“This is our ver­sion of a Friends­giv­ing,” she said. “It’s a chance to hang out and catch up, but give back to the com­mu­nity at the same time. Sim­ply help­ing out makes us all feel good.”

Lodi res­i­dent Jeff Fleak was chop­ping cel­ery and ap­ples to make a Wal­dorf salad. Novem­ber and De­cem­ber are the key times the com­mu­nity comes to­gether to help oth­ers, he said.

“There are not too many op­por­tu­ni­ties through­out the year to give back,” he said. “So right now is a good time to get to­gether with friends and fam­ily help out.”

Down the street at the Sal­va­tion

Army’s Hope Har­bor, food and bev­er­age di­rec­tor Barry Crall and his culi­nary arts academy stu­dents were busy mak­ing mashed pota­toes and gravy at 9 a.m. Wed­nes­day.

He and the stu­dents had ac­tu­ally been pre­par­ing since Mon­day in an­tic­i­pa­tion of about 850 peo­ple sit­ting down for Thanks­giv­ing at 622 N. Sacra­mento St. An­other 250 meals were de­liv­ered to shut-in clients.

“All we do is the prep work,”

Crall said. “It’s the com­mu­nity that comes in and vol­un­teers their time to serve ev­ery­one. This is re­ally an op­por­tu­nity for the com­mu­nity of Lodi to pro­vide ser­vice, not us.”

About 100 vol­un­teers helped the Sal­va­tion Army on a ro­tat­ing sched­ule through­out the day, he said, al­low­ing ev­ery­one to spend time with their fam­i­lies while also giv­ing back.

Vol­un­teers also led clean-up ef­forts once the Thanks­giv­ing meals were fin­ished.

Al­though Crall cred­its the vol­un­teers from Lodi for their hol­i­day ser­vice, he said he has a heart for ser­vice thanks to the Sal­va­tion Army, which helped him fight ad­dic­tion nearly 20 years ago.

“To be a part of this is a bless­ing for me,” he said. “I’m one of the for­tu­nate ones who re­al­ized what I was sup­posed to do with my life, and this is it.”

Sal­va­tion Army Shel­ter Di­rec­tor John Narvaez said it is Crall and his stu­dents who make the Thanks­giv­ing event hap­pen ev­ery year, along with the vol­un­teers who do­nate their time to help out.

“It lit­er­ally takes an army to run the Army,” he said. “We feel it’s im­por­tant to pro­vide for those in need in our com­mu­nity at a point in time they oth­er­wise can’t pro­vide for them­selves.”

NEWS-SEN­TINEL PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY BEA AHBECK

Edward Ochoa and Daniel Reve­les, stu­dents in Sal­va­tion Army’s Culi­nary Arts pro­gram at Hope Har­bor, pre­pare mashed pota­toes ahead of Thanks­giv­ing din­ner on Wed­nes­day morn­ing at the Sal­va­tion Army in Lodi.

Jeff Fleak, Kevin Loben­berg and Kevin’s fa­ther, Den­nis Loben­berg, pre­pare cel­ery for a Wal­dorf salad as they help pre­pare for the Thank­giv­ing meal at Grace & Mercy Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion in Lodi on Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

BEA AHBECK/NEWS-SEN­TINEL

Grace & Mercy Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion founder Ch­eryl Fran­cis unwraps tur­keys as she and vol­un­teers pre­pare the Thanks­giv­ing meal on Wed­nes­day morn­ing at the Lodi non­profit.

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