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Asking only for donations, Costas feed raises money for cash-starved families
Buck Leonardo breaks up the rib bones on the lamb during Fridays 31st annual Costas Wild-Game Feed held at Manteca Trailer and Motorhome and Trailer facility, where 100 percent of the donations will assist needy families with clothes, food, furniture and holiday blessings. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Rick Buttram and his son Bradley did not mind waiting in line. Hundreds of people were ahead of them, and dozens more were behind them, each standing patiently along the side of Vasconcellos Avenue off Yosemite Avenue.

All that patience and waiting for a chance to get a taste of wild game and contribute to a philanthropic cause at the same time. The event Friday that drew about a thousand people to Manteca Trailer and Motorhome was the annual Costa’s Wild-Game Feed. 

Those who came to satisfy their palates with the exotic food donated by a group of avid local hunters, or to introduce their taste buds to new epicurean delights did not have to buy a ticket for this gustatory experience. However, they were encouraged to make a donation. This year, each was asked to contribute $15 or more if possible. 

Every penny dropped in the donation barrel will help needy families and children this Christmas.

Those who heard the call of the wild-game feast were not only residents of the Family City but people from surrounding communities such as Stockton, Riverbank, Modesto and Escalon. Several of them came with their young children and grandchildren.

Ron Lee and wife Lanie came from Escalon, along with their 2-year-old grandson Daniel Mendee, a foster child of their daughter Billi Mendee. They were all at the feed for the first time. Billi Mendee is a volunteer at the Manteca Animal Shelter – she also volunteers at the facility in Escalon – where she heard about the Costa event and invited her parents to go. Billi said she was “kinda curious” to taste some of the food, then jokingly added, “I look forward to tasting the potato salad.”

Terry Shoeffler, who shows up at this feed every year, is from Stockton. He elicited plenty of guffaws from the people around him when he announced he was so looking forward to fill his plate with all the food that he walked all the way from Stockton to Manteca.

Several of the volunteers were also from out of town. Among them was Adrian Gross, 13, a student at El Portal Elementary in Escalon, who came to help serve the desserts.

“He got excused from his teacher to come and help. He has been doing this for five years,” said his grandmother, Marilyn Pascale of Manteca.

Adrian said he enjoys coming here because “it’s like this is where all the hunters come, and I’m a hunter, too.” His parents are also avid hunters, and together they go hunting “in the mountains by Groveland and Jamestown.

“We hunt for sport and for food,” he said.

The perennial crew of cooks and servers were all there, too. They included Frank Texeira, owner of Fagundes Meats and Catering in Manteca; Ken Hicken, who is in charge of kitchen crew; Chuck Vander Pol; Manteca martial arts instructor Robin Taberna and his “Taberna Tribe” family; and many others who have been friends with Costa brothers, Jim and Jessie, who continued this annual benefit for the needy at Christmas after the death of their father, Joe, who started it.

All the meat – bear, elk, deer, boar (wild pig) and other wild game – are donated by the Costa brothers, both avid hunters, and their friends who share a love of the sport. Some, like Jim Costa, are also avid anglers and donate some of the salmon and calamari that are also served.

All the desserts are donated by people who have supported the cause for many years, like the family of Crystal VanDykhuizen, Lead Animal Services officer at the Manteca Animal Shelter.

“We do it because the money goes to needy causes,” said VanDykhuizen, whose family baked all the cakes and cookies that were served for dessert. The fresh-made pies were donated by the fruit stand at the corner of E. Highway 120 and Jack Tone Road. VanDykhuizen made all the cookies – all 1,500 of them. Her mother, Marilyn Pascale, made all the cakes – more than a dozen of them – which took her about two days to make.