When most people think of Christmas they think about candy canes and fresh baked treats and maybe a cup of hot chocolate.
But Jesse Costa thinks about wild boar, barbecued pheasant, and a party that brings people from as far away as Idaho to partake in all things wild game.
And it’s all in the name of charity.
For more than three decades the Costa’s Wild Game Feed – which kicks off Friday at 11 a.m. at Manteca Trailer and Motorhome – has been feeding people in the month of December to showcase the spirit of community and to show what people can do when they come together to help others.
And the story of how it came to pass is as much of the history as the savory game that is served up to adventurous eaters.
According to Costa, it was his father who came up with the idea after one of the longtime employees of the family’s machine shop business found himself down and out around the holidays – just recently left by his wife and with more kids than he could possibly take care of his own, the Costa family decided to do something special to help them out.
By fixing up a couple of bicycles and pulling some toys together, they were halfway to a decent holiday party that could lighten the load of their employee and put a smile on the face of his children.
But they needed something to eat.
Always a family of sportsmen, the brothers and their father turned to their freezers to pull out some of the take from the year’s hunting and fishing expeditions and ended up pooling together the first of what would become an annual benefit to help the less fortunate.
Now going strong for more than three decades, the gathering has grown to welcome more than 1,000 hungry people every year and raises thousands of dollars from those who make donations that is then used to purchase toys, clothes and a holiday meal for less fortunate families in the community.
“For me it’s about bringing everybody together,” said Jesse Costa – who organizes the event with the help of his brother Jim and a host of other dedicated volunteers. “It’s about bringing everybody together to help the people who need it the most.
“I know that there are other communities that do things that are similar to this, but I can’t think of anybody that does something on this scale – it has grown so much over the years.”
While the roots may be humble, putting together something of its kind is anything but.
According to Costa, the work on the next year’s feast – since it’s heavily dependent upon one’s sporting take over the course of multiple seasons – begins as soon as the previous year concludes.
And what was once a family working to take care of an employee has now grown into a committee that works with local non-profits and even local schools to identify needs of families and students who could benefit from the goodwill of those who donate upon their arrival.
“It take a lot of work to get everything together, and since it’s season dependent we’ll start putting away as soon as this one wraps up,” Costa said. “But it’s for a good cause and it brings people from all over the place to participate. It’s something that we’re glad to be a part of.”
Manteca Trailer and Motorhome is located at 204 Vasconcellos Ave. The event, which takes place on Friday, Dec. 9, will begin when people start being fed at 11:30 a.m. and continue until it concludes at 4 p.m. The event is open to the public, and a donation is requested of those who attend.