The month of May promises to be the busiest time of the year for Ray of Hope.
So says Laura Vieira-Saunders, who is the executive director of the non-profit organization.
"School will be out soon and the children will not have their daily meals [lunch]," she said.
Enter the Kids Cupboard.
This is the newest program of Ray of Hope in that it services the neediest infants, children and teenagers in the community.
"We worry about not having enough food stocked to meet the demands," said Vieira-Saunders, who is currently requesting donations of such items.
She added: "There is a real need for food in our community and although I knew it, I did not realize the magnitude of the reality that children are not always getting three meals a day even if they are living in a home."
Ray of Hope's focus is on those children referred through agencies dealing with severe issues such as Child Protective Services and Child Abuse Prevention Council of San Joaquin County as well as those families and children who are coming in and seeking services at an alarming rate.
"Ray of Hope operates a very strict program in which families are expected to engage in programs to be self sufficient and to no longer need their help," Vieira-Saunders said. "We take them on for a year and provide every avenue we can to get them on their feet, we are not a band aid service, we do not just give things away.
"That's enabling and we would not be doing the children or the community a service if we do that. We visit their homes, motels, tents or whatever living arrangements reported to assure validity and to assess the true needs of the children."
For those at Ray of Hope, the needs of youngsters are much deeper than food, hygiene, diapers, etc.
Vieira-Saunders indicated that the frustration is not having the available resources in Manteca.
"The shelters are full. There's a waiting list for the rehab programs and there's no domestic violence assistance -- mental health (one of the primary reasons along with drug abuse for homelessness) services are desperately needed in this city," she said.
For now, the Ray of Hope focus is nutrition for the children.
Vieira-Saunders urges those in the community to please hold food drives, water drives and diaper drives "so we can meet the demand this spring and summer," she said.
Thus far, Ray of Hope has been blessed with the support of San Joaquin General Hospital, the Manteca Police Department K-9 Unit, East Union High and other local groups.
"Manteca is a generous community," Vieira-Saunders said. "We rely heavily on ongoing food water diapers and hygiene coming in Ray of Hopes Children's Crisis and Resource Center."
Ray of Hope board member Robert Brotherton added: "It's our hope we get kids involved -- What better way to teach kids to love their neighbor then to have them help feed their classmates, neighbors and community members."
Donations can be dropped off at Cabral Motors at 1145 W. Yosemite Ave., Pro Touch Auto Repair at 225 Moffat Blvd., or during sign-up sessions for the Manteca youth football Raiders and cheer squads.
Those interested in conducting a food drive along with any donations can click on to KIDSCUPBOARD@rayofhopekids.com or call 209.883.6411 or 209.597.0574 .