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Place of Refuge brings church to homeless, needy

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Place of Refuge brings church to homeless, needy

Youngsters were among those partaking in the chance to have a meal plus secure clothes for winter on Thursday at Library Park.

Photo contributed/


POSTED November 25, 2013 11:49 p.m.

The sign on the side of the closet on wheels said it all: “The church has left the building.”

The church being referred to is the Place of Refuge on Button Avenue in Manteca. The van’s interior resembled a walk-in closet, with winter coats of various sizes and colors neatly hanging on two racks with a walking aisle in between for “shopping” convenience. Anybody was free to “shop” for a coat, and that included the needy and the homeless.

The vehicle parked on the side of the street by the Library Park was part of a bigger family event sponsored by the Place of Refuge. As the message on the side of the van announced, volunteers brought the church to the people at the downtown park with various outreach services to everyone who was there.

Associate Pastor Rob Cox, School of Ministry student Annie Carver, and host of other volunteers manned the portable grill where they cooked and prepared hotdogs and chili beans. A few feet behind them were long tables where JoAnne Lund, Lynn Sedlacek and her granddaughter Rachel, along with other helping hands, personally served the food to scores of people – several of them families – who came out to enjoy not just the food but the camaraderie and the pleasant evening fall weather under the canopy of towering sycamore and ginkgo trees, their foliage ablaze in autumn colors.

Sitting in one of the forest green park benches, a smiling Margarita Carlos watched her grandchildren Michelle, 10, her sister Melanie Muncia, 9, and their cousins Luis Angel, 2; and Vicky Marlin, 4, as they ate hotdogs and chips and then played in the slides. In the other kids’ play area, other young children frolicked under the watchful eye of adult family members.

As visitors partook of the food, church volunteers Nathan Johnson and Joseph McIlvain, speaking with the aid of a portable public address system, enlivened the atmosphere by inviting everyone to help themselves to the food.

Cox, the son-in-law of Place of Refuge Senior Pastor Mike Dillman, described what they were doing Thursday evening at the Library Park as their “outreach in the city.

“We’ve been doing this for seven years,” he said, although not all of their outreach activities have been at the Library Park.

However, they intend to maintain an outreach presence, offering winter coats and food to the needy and homeless in the community at the Library Park at least once a month, Cox said.

“God calls us to be kind to these people. We can’t turn them away and we can’t forget them. My heart goes out to them as a human being,” he added.

Among the guests who came by to taste the piping hot chili beans and barbecued hot dogs was Andrea McClure.

“The hotdog was good,” she pronounced, then added with a chuckle, “but I passed up the chili because it gives me gas.”

All the food was donated by generous church members and other individuals like Texas Roadhouse owners JoAnn Lund and her husband, Tim, who are members of the Place of Refuge.

The grill that was used to cook the food was made by students at East Union High School, Cox said.

“We’ve been using it for four years now,” he said.

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