CERES — Two Thanksgivings ago, John and Renee Martinez got a free turkey from a grocery store, one they didnt need.
So my husband said, Why dont we make some extra and feed the homeless? Renee recalled.
That giveaway, which the Ceres couple conducted out of the trunk of their car, has grown into an annual event that on Wednesday provided turkey and all the trimmings for about 200 people at the Modesto Moose Lodge.
The Fifth Street building is in a neighborhood frequented by homeless people, but low-income folks who arent homeless were welcome, too.
Its a blessing, said Blanca Saldivar, who has been homeless in the past. There are some people who dont have enough to eat, and places like this help us out.
The meal featured six turkeys and four hams, plus plenty of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, vegetables, rolls, pies, fruit cocktail and drinks. Guests could dine in or take out.
It makes an impact, said Anthony Groomes, a friend of Saldivars. It shows that people care for those who are less fortunate.
John Martinez is a bricklayer, and Renee is an eligibility worker for the Housing Authority of Stanislaus County. They put on last years meal in an I Street parking lot but were able to get inside for this years version. They rounded up food donations and about 20 volunteers, largely from the entwined Martinez and Ortega families, including three of the couples six children.
They planned to take surplus dinners, if there were any, to parks and other places where homeless people hang out. And they plan on a fourth annual meal next year.
Guest Debbie Santos said the food was welcome at a time when she is struggling to get back into office work and dealing with other stresses. Everyone has a different story, she said, and everyone has a different reason for being here.
The couples effort is one of several this week on behalf of people who might not otherwise get a Thanksgiving meal.
For instance, Turlock Gospel Mission is serving 400 people between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. today at 437 S. Broadway, the site of its future shelter. A presentation will be given showing the new plans for the shelter. To learn more, call (209) 277-6842.
Also, the Salvation Army Modesto Citadel will serve meals from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Centre Plaza, 1000 L St. To learn more, call (209) 522-3209.
And United Samaritans Foundation is distributing meals to the needy in Modesto, Ceres, Hughson, Keyes and Turlock. For more on that, call (209) 668-4853.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.