MODESTO -- Several hundred people turned out Wednesday at the Modesto Gospel Mission to fill their bellies with a turkey dinner and warm their bodies with free coats and jackets.
The mission's annual Thanksgiving Banquet and Bundle Up was expected to draw about 600 people, many of them families with children.
"Everything is so good," said Lydia Ibarra as she finished her dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, a dinner roll, green beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, all of it washed down with fruit punch.
Ibarra, 58, also came for a warm winter coat. The Modesto resident said she is disabled and money is tight. Her winter outerwear consists of two worn, hooded sweat shirts and she needed something warmer this winter.
After finishing their meals in the mission's dining room, the guests entered a nearby room to select a coat, jacket or other piece of warm outerwear.
The mission also handed out canvas sneakers, which were among the more than 14,000 pairs of shoes an anonymous donor gave to The Salvation Army, Inter-Faith Ministries and the mission in October.
The mission opened its doors at 3 p.m., serving the clients who stay at the mission first and then those who started waiting in line as early as 9:30 a.m.
A disabled woman was first in line. Diane, who declined to give her last name, said she did not want to repeat what happened to her last year when she arrived later in the day and missed out on a coat.
Diane, 59, said her monthly income consists of the $854 she receives from Social Security for being disabled after hurting her back while cleaning office buildings about a decade ago.
She left the mission Wednesday with a heavy London Fog jacket with a hood to replace her skimpy windbreaker.
"It was great, all of it," Diane said about the dinner and her jacket as she made her way toward the free shoes.
The mission holds the annual event the day before Thanksgiving so the small army of volunteers who help on Wednesday can celebrate the holiday with their families.
Volunteers were grateful they could help others feel at home, enjoy a homemade meal and leave with warm clothing.
"I have a job, a nice home and a family," said volunteer Lynnell DiFrancia, 62. "I've been blessed. I just want to give back. I love Modesto. I was born here, live here and will die here."
Brad Wilson, the mission's development director, said he expected Wednesday's turnout to be about 600 people, which is about the same number as last year. But those numbers are lower than previous years when the mission served more than 1,000 people annually.
Wilson said he believed the numbers are down because there are more churches, nonprofit organizations and other groups helping the homeless and poor over the holidays with food and clothing.
But none of the 155 turkeys and 400 pounds each of mashed potatoes and stuffing, 35 gallons of gravy, as well as hundreds of apple and pumpkin pies will go to waste.
The homeless and the others who stay at the mission, such as the women in its recovery program, will eat the leftovers in the coming days.
"We serve 12,000 meals a month," Wilson said.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316.
MODESTO-AREA THANKSGIVING MEALS
The Spirit of Oakdale Committee will hold its annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Gene Bianchi Community Center, 110 S. Second Ave., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Diners will leave with boxes of canned and packaged food. Toys will be given to children.
The Salvation Army's Modesto Citadel Corps will team up with the Costa family for the annual Thanks-For-Giving Dinner at Modesto Centre Plaza. Doors open at 1 p.m. There will be face painting and games for children, as well as story times. The Costas will provide free family photographs for diners. Modesto Area Express will provide free busing for the dinner. Buses on three routes will arrive at Centre Plaza about 12:35 p.m. They will depart at 2:30 p.m. on the same routes. If a bus reaches capacity, another will be sent. Brochures showing the routes can be found at www.modestoareaexpress.com and on MAX buses.
Turlock Gospel Mission is working with Connecting Point Church of the Nazarene to provide Thanksgiving meals. The meals will be served at the church starting at 6 p.m. The church is at 3200 E. Monte Vista Ave., just east of Waring Road.
Enclave Community Church in Turlock will hold its annual Thanksgiving dinner from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. The church is at 581 E. Canal Drive.