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Wild game feast born out of desire to help others
Marty Blandino, left, and Robin Taberna grill elk burgers during Costa’s annual Wild Game Feed & Benefit Party on Friday at Manteca Trailer and Motor Home. - photo by HIME ROMERO
It was 25 years ago when Jim and Jesse Costa first helped a family in need at Christmas time.

An employee of their machine shop which they ran with their father had 10 children to raise on his own and refused to apply for welfare aid. There was simply no money to supply a holiday meal or put presents under the tree.

So they fixed up some old bicycles, pulled out some of the game meat they had stored in the freezer, and staged what would eventually grow into an annual event that draws more than a thousand people every year and raises roughly $10,000 for local families in need.

Friday afternoon hundreds of people continued the tradition by filtering through the Manteca Trailer and Motor Home dealership for the Costa’s Annual Wild Game Feed and Holiday Benefit Party. They enjoyed a smorgasbord of wild game that included boar, elk, venison (deer), bear, pheasant, and a host of seafood delicacies including abalone and calamari.

Just like every year there was no admission cost – just a barrel for donations that people give based on what they feel they can afford. Last year the event raised $7,000 that went to help local families, and was distributed by a committee that was formed to identify those in need and assess how they can be helped.

According to Jim Costa, it’s the people and the volunteers that make the event what it is.

“This is seriously the greatest group of people you could ever meet,” Costa said. “This has become a community event, and we have people that come from all over – some from out of state – to be a part of this.

“And there’s a team of almost 60 volunteers that start cooking at six in the morning – they’re the ones that do what it takes to make this all possible.”

Rather than purchasing food, sportsmen and avid hunters have kept the tradition alive by donating a portion of their take every year that goes towards the annual feed. Other community volunteers prepare side dishes, and a host of beverages are available for all to enjoy.

Four years ago Robin Taberna attended his first feed when it was held at Vern’s Towing next to Costa’s Automotive, marveling at the sheer number of people in attendance and the story behind the gathering.

Now he’s one of the volunteers that cooks up the food that feeds the masses – specializing in deer and elk burgers that he prepares on a camp stove.

“There are a lot of people out there right now that need, and a lot of us have so much that we take for granted,” Taberna said. “It’s a great cause, and on top of helping families it gives people who can’t afford to eat a good meal. I love volunteering and being a part of this.”