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Cornerstones food giveaway on Saturday
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Helping Hands of Cornerstone Church in Manteca is distributing more than just Thanksgiving food baskets on Saturday.

“This year, we’re going to give people little gifts,” said Lillian Cushman whose family has been involved in this outreach ministry of the church for years.

“We’re going to give something for the women, something for the men, and something for the kids – we got lots of stuffed animals for the kids,” she said.

Spanish-speaking members of the congregation will be passing out these gifts, Cushman said. They are giving the children gifts now because the church will not be hosting the Christmas breakfast which is usually when the gifts are distributed to the young ones.

“We got some caps and hats and scarves and gloves for the kids for winter. We’re doing something for the men, too. Probably a lot of them are homeless so we have bags of washcloths, socks, toothpaste, toothbrush – just toiletries. For the women, we have shampoo and conditioner, among other things. We’re just trying to make things a little bit better for them, for the people that are coming (for the food distribution),” said Cushman who, with husband Jack, children David and Sylvia and their kids, plus a host of volunteers from the church and from the community, have been working hard the last two weeks or so preparing the food baskets and gift bags.

“We’re again planning on distributing 200 Thanksgiving food boxes. One hundred forty are already ready. We have 60 more to go,” Cushman said. They will be doing the rest today.

They could end up giving away more than 200 food boxes though, she added. The turkeys were obtained from the Second Harvest Food Bank, thanks to the generous donations of such groups as Turkeys R Us in Manteca and businesses like Foster Farms.

“Tonight we found out while watching TV that Foster Farms gave 1,000 turkeys to the Second Harvest Food Bank. They showed the trucks bringing the stuff in. It was kind of neat to see it on Channel 3,” Cushman said.

She said they will be distributing the Thanksgiving boxes Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon on a first come, first served basis.

Cushman and the program’s volunteer work crew are not worried about having enough hands to help on Saturday.
“We have so many people that have offered to come and volunteer,” she said. And not all of them are members of Cornerstone Church.

“In fact, one of the girls from Second Harvest Food Bank and her friend are going to come and help us. They are members of a Bible study. And we have people that don’t come to our church who offered to help. I think they read about it in the paper and they became interested,” Cushman explained.

While the Great Recession may have been declared over, that is not evident from the number of people that come to the Helping Hands for assistance, she said. This outreach program of the church, besides the Thanksgiving and Christmas food distribution, does the same thing every third Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. until noon.

Cushman said that even though they try to be at the church before the 10 a.m. start of the distribution, they always find people who are already lined up and waiting at the gate when they arrive.

“These people really touch my heart,” she said.

She recalled one woman who told her, “Lillian, I never thought I’d see myself here.”

“I said, that’s not a crime. If you need the help, we’re here. And she said, ‘I really appreciate that.’ She had worked before, and I think she is a widow.”

There is also the young mother who comes every month with her two young children.

“She always brings the kids with her. The kids are 4 and 2. The husband lost his job. Some neighbors gave them a couple of jackets. So we really try to treat these people with kindness because they’re going through a hard time,” Cushman said.

Anyone with questions about Helping Hands, or would like to help the program as a volunteer or by donating to the cause, call the church office at (209) 825-1220.