They were in hog heaven for 16 years, riding their shiny Goldwing motorcycle to help Ride for Kids.
Today, Jack and Lillian Cushman are literally Helping Hands at Cornerstone Church in Manteca.
After racking up thousands of miles on the road helping the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation raise funds to find the cause of, and cure for, childhood brain tumors, the retired restaurant owners reached the proverbial fork on the road and decided to explore a path they have not taken before – helping people find the road to addiction recovery.
The Cushmans, who owned the now-defunct Pietro’s Restaurant in Manteca for many years, started volunteering for Helping Hands six years ago while they were still doing the motorcycle run with Ride for Kids. The outreach arm of Cornerstone Church is a program that is similar to what St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church does, except Helping Hands’ food distribution takes place only once a month – every third Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon at the church located on East Highway 120 at the corner of Comconex Road.
“It’s strictly first come, first served. And we don’t deliver. It’s just too hard for us to do that. People have to come in and get (the food boxes),” said Lillian Cushman somewhat apologetically.
The program, which has been going on for years before the Cushmans got involved, is solely supported by donations from private individuals in the community and Cornerstone. Many church members also volunteer for the program.
“Our church is so good about that,” Cushman said of the monetary and manpower support coming from Cornerstone.
In fact, church members religiously contribute to the cause every Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“What we normally do is set up boxes, and people in the congregation take boxes home and put stuff in them – stuffing mix, chicken broth, potatoes, gravy, dessert,” Cushman said, itemizing the things they pack in the bags.
They usually start the donation collection two to three weeks ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas distribution so that they can go and purchase the other stuff if the donations happen to fall short of what they need to meet the demand. For Thanksgiving, for example, they prepared for 210 people.
They get most of the food at Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca. There are times also when the St. Vincent the Paul Society at St. Anthony’s calls them “asking if we need bread because they have so much” they don’t have space for them in their freezers, Cushman said.
With the Thanksgiving food give-away over, Helping Hands is now gearing up for the Christmas distribution which will be on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. until noon. The Cushmans don’t know yet what else they will have available that day besides food. During the Thanksgiving distribution, they had nurses from Walgreens giving free flu shots. There was also the St. Joseph Medical Wagon where people got free blood pressure checks, among other free medical services.
Helping Hands, though, is not the only outreach ministry that has been keeping the Cushmans busy. More than a year ago, they also became involved in Celebrate Recovery, another program offered by Cornerstone Church.
“Celebrate Recovery is an organization that helps people that have habits, hang-ups, hurts – whatever problems that they have. It’s a Christ-centered recovery program, designed to help those struggling with life’s hurts. This organization is popping up in a lot of churches. God is doing a lot of amazing things through Celebrate Recovery. Jack and I started to do that at Cornerstone. We took the training and we became facilitators. We lead a group and it’s growing. During open share, there are usually 30 to 40 people there. It’s really a neat group,” said Cushman.
However, there came a point when Jack and Lillian – both 80 years old – had to make a tough decision.
“We have to be there (at the church for Celebrate Recovery meetings) two nights a week – Monday and Friday – so we had to give up the Ride for Kids,” Cushman said.
“But we’ve been doing it for 16 years. It was time to step down,” she said.