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St. Vincent de Paul Society hands out 300 food baskets
Robert Hansen and fiancée Geraldine Hamblen smile as they head for home after picking up their Thanksgiving food basket Tuesday morning from the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
Benny Arnold’s food bag had a can of ham instead of a frozen turkey.

“I have no problem with that. I’m just thankful we have something for Thanksgiving,” said a smiling Arnold who has been looking for a job since he was laid off last year.

Arnold was one about 300 area families who showed up at the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church for the annual Thanksgiving food distribution.

Turkeys were given to larger families with several children. For families of two, like Arnold and his wife Peggy, they were given ham or chicken.

Blanca Estela Aldaco and her family were among those who went home with a 20-lb turkey along with a bag containing trimmings for a complete Thanksgiving dinner. Helping her pick up the food Tuesday morning at St. Vincent de Paul were daughters Maripsa, 11; Joanna, 9; and Emily, 6; who were happy to receive a bonus treat from the volunteers – fresh donuts.

Max Valdez, who came to pick up the food basket with grandchildren Elvia, 9, and Liliana, 3, also received one of the larger baskets.

A group of high school students belonging to a church group called Anthony’s Angels assisted the St. Vincent volunteers by helping clients carry the frozen turkeys and food bags to their cars. The teen-agers – Amanda Hixson, Sarah Weiland and her brother Josh, Alan Hewitt and Joy Hessler – are all students of Sierra High School.

Some of the turkeys and hams came from Raley’s and from donations collected through the St. Anthony’s School Educational Foundation annual fund-raiser. Each year, when the foundation sells ham and turkey around this time to raise money for its various projects, people making the orders can specify that their purchases be given to St. Vincent de Paul.

For Arnold and his wife, the work of St. Vincent de Paul Society has been a blessing during their difficult times.

“What they are doing for the people is fabulous. They’re just showing God’s love,” said the unemployed former truck driver.

Their continuing ministry also shows that “you got good people that still care,” added Arnold who said he “used to be a Catholic” but is currently attending the Worship Christian Center in Manteca.

He said he has a commercial Class A driver’s license but would accept any job right now.

“I don’t care what kind of job is available. A job is a blessing,” he said.

Despite their present difficulties, he said, “God’s great; He’s my blessing.”

Those who want to help St. Vincent de Paul Society raise funds for its year-round ministry to the needy can go to their annual omelet breakfast on Sunday, Dec. 6, from 8 a.m. until noon in the St. Anthony’s School gym. This is the society’s only fund-raiser during the year and is always held on the first Sunday of December. Tickets are $10 apiece and will be available at the door.