OAKDALE -- Sisters Rachel and Amelia Villareal say they couldn't make ends meet without the help they get from Community Sharing Christian Center, a volunteer-run Oakdale nonprofit organization that operates a food pantry and clothes closet.
"I've got a job, but I don't make enough money," Rachel Villareal said Tuesday after she and her sister and a neighbor each received a box filled with canned and boxed food, peanut butter, cereal, bread, lunch meat, and fresh broccoli, potatoes and plums.
The Villareals were among the nearly 120 families who had used the food pantry by 10 a.m. Tuesday. Volunteers expected to serve about 175 families by the time they closed their doors at 11:30 a.m.
Community Sharing has been helping feed low-income families since the 1950s, but it's seen a surge in demand in recent years because of the recession. Jo Ann Kearns, who has volunteered at Community Sharing for 20 years, said the number of families it helps with food on Tuesdays has doubled in four years, from about 100 to 200.
Community Sharing President Ken Narita said the nonprofit is serving more and more formerly middle-class families, which are struggling after the loss of jobs.
But Narita said Community Sharing which operates out of a Stanislaus County-owned building provided rent free has been able to meet the growing demand because of the generosity of the community.
As examples, he said an anonymous donor recently gave $30,000, dairymen at an Oakdale church donate beef, and another church donates produce from its victory garden.
"This community," Narita said, "the attitude is Oakdale people taking care of one another."
Community Sharing reported receiving $58,000 in contributions, gifts and revenue on its 2011 tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service. It buys food from Second Harvest Food Bank but also receives donations from local food producers and grocers.
Rachel Villareal said she earns about $600 a month working as a home health provider. Amelia Villareal is disabled and collects $734 a month from Social Security's Supplemental Security Income Program.
They said they are grateful for Community Sharing and how it helps a wide range of the community. As they loaded their groceries into the back of a neighbor's pickup truck, people pulled up in shiny late-model sedans, as well as cars and pickups that have seen better days. Other people arrived on bicycles, and some were on foot, pulling two-wheel carts.
"A lot of people have it a lot worse than us," Rachel Villareal said.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.
GIVING & RECEIVING
WANT TO HELP? Checks can be mailed to Community Sharing Christian Center, P.O. Box 1160, Oakdale, CA 95361
WHEN TO GET HELP Community Sharing is at 579 Center St. The food pantry and clothes closet are open Tuesdays from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Clients need to show that they live in the 95361 ZIP code. A driver's license or utility bill is sufficient. They also need to show that they are low-income, through such means as their disability income, child support payments or unemployment benefits.