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Calvary finds out that no good deed goes unpunished
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Normally I do not get into commenting on remarks left on the Manteca Bulletin’s website.

But the full throttle attack on Calvary Community Church “Christ is a verb for Calvary youth” in Tuesday’s Manteca Bulletin for allegedly not supporting the community through efforts like Turkeys R Us and instead investing in a youth center at their church campus is over the top.

Calvary Community – along with many other houses of worship in this city – is part of the Manteca Ministerial Association. It is an incredible diversified and active organization and includes virtually all faiths including Catholics and Mormons. That is unusual because in many communities the larger churches don’t partner with the smaller churches.

Partner to do what, you ask? One of the many things they have done was found HOPE Ministries almost 20 years ago. Not only do churches financially support the ministries effort as a congregation but they get individuals to step up within the church family to provide everything from additional cash, toiletries, labor, food, and volunteer help.

What does HOPE Ministries do? Well, Manteca has three homeless shelters that last year served 106 families that included 226 children. They have a success rate approaching 90 percent of helping people literally get back on their feet after staying at the shelter.

And they are doing this now with virtually no state or federal funds. It is not a small undertaking considering it costs around $150,000 annually which excludes material donations. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Churches on their own also operate food closets, emergency funds, and a wide array of other services that members of this community benefit from whether they are Christian, agnostic, atheists, Sikhs or whatever creed they may be. The help churches in Manteca provide is amazingly faith blind.

Calvary Community has a rich history of helping Ray of Hope from actual donations and arranging events to at one time providing them space for their operations. Thousands of needy kids in Manteca, Lathrop, Ripon and Stockton benefit from Ray of Hope from newborns to high school kids.

Members of the Calvary congregation – under the church’s umbrella – volunteer with numerous community organizations that serve people throughout the year.

Yes, each church does offer an array of services from counseling and assistance to helping those within their congregation. But that is in addition to outreach.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a single church in Manteca that is not actively engaged in the community whether it is the small but mighty Southside Christian Church that stages Friday Unity in the Neighborhoods throughout the summer to combat the influence of gangs to Crossroads Grace Community with its 2nd Saturday outreach programs that runs the gamut from helping glean food to feed the needy to helping elderly with home repairs and maintenance.

Southside, in case you care to know, leverages a congregation of three dozen people into one that is making a big difference in the lives of 100-plus kids who are in one of the toughest neighborhoods in town. They are making inroads against the influence of gangs and the problems poverty pose for young people. Not one of the kids that show up each week is a member of the congregation.

The pockets of people across the community – from Calvary Community members to Catholics to Hindus to people who aren’t affiliated with any specific organized religion - are opened daily to help everything from Turkeys R  Us, Scouts, the Boys & Girls Club, school groups, and charities serving the needy.

For the record, I am not a member of Calvary Community. And for those who believe I am a Catholic, Mormon or a member of Crossroads Grace simply because The Manteca Bulletin under my byline carried a story on a particular church, get a grip. The same for those over the years that’ve sent in unsigned “hate letters” questioning my patriotism because we ran positive stories on everything from Islamic Worship Centers to Hindus.

I was raised a Methodist and baptized a Presbyterian and no, I do not attend church. And – if it matters – reading about organized religions rates as my No. 2 favorite reading material behind California water politics. The writing is rich, the morality tale worth noting, and the history interesting whether it is the King James Bible, The Koran, or the Book of Mormon.

Religious bigotry is no different than racial bigotry. It is based on making a judgment not based on facts but simply because someone is either different or doing something different than you are.

Quite frankly, if the new youth center at Calvary Community supports programs that help young people find their way, establish values, and understand the importance about building relationships and reaching out to others then we are a step closer to the day when we will all be free.