Jeff Jardine

Jeff Jardine: Many say ‘thanks’ this Thanksgiving Day

Norma Benevides, right, holds a plate of food she received as a random act of kindness from Demetrius Stigar at a north Modesto convenience store Tuesday night. Once homeless himself, Stigar has been giving food to the homeless in the area this week as a way of saying thanks for the help he’s received throughout the years.
Norma Benevides, right, holds a plate of food she received as a random act of kindness from Demetrius Stigar at a north Modesto convenience store Tuesday night. Once homeless himself, Stigar has been giving food to the homeless in the area this week as a way of saying thanks for the help he’s received throughout the years. jjardine@modbee.com

For much of his life, Demetrius Stigar called the streets of San Jose and other cities his home.

“My parents always went from shelter to shelter,” the 23-year-old said. “Lots of my Thanksgiving dinners have been in shelters.”

Including last year’s at the Modesto Gospel Mission.

Since then, Stigar said, things have changed for the better. “I’ve been going to school, trying to stay positive,” he said.

He found work at an auto detailing shop. He saved some money, and recently moved in with his sister in Oakland to save even more. Last weekend, he bought 10 turkeys, stuffing mix, potatoes and gravy. Getting help from friends who cooked the birds – two or three of them each day – he’s been driving around Modesto all week dishing up hot plates of food for those in need. He sees folks who look down on their luck. He pulls over and hands them a meal.

“I go around where there are the most homeless – downtown, the West Side, the parks – and I feed them,” Stigar said. “I figured I’d feed about 25 a day. I fed 70 (on Monday).”

Stigar took his repayment road show to Oakland on Wednesday and plans to return to the Valley today, cruising Ceres and Turlock before having dinner with family here.

“It’s a way of giving back,” he said. Indeed, it is his way of doing what others did for him in the toughest of times, of paying it forward. “Of saying, ‘Thanks.’”

Last week, The Bee posted this question on our Facebook page: “What are you thankful for this year?” The posting drew more than 200 responses.

Many came from people who are battling illnesses, or their children or relatives or friends are dealing with ailments. They expressed thanks for the support they’ve received from friends and loved ones who in some cases overcame their ailments, or in other cases left those who survive them feeling blessed for the time they did have together.

“I’m thankful that I had the privilege to spend 13 months at my ill mother’s side, leaving my home to live with her and care for her until her death from cancer in April,” wrote Sandy Claussen DeMott. “We had some laughs, we had some tears, but we became closer than I thought possible. I am thankful for my husband, who is my rock, my best friend, who got me through those months and was by my side when I needed, and when I said it’s not a good day – he understood. I am thankful for my brother, who was on the phone or nearby everyday. I am thankful, grateful to God and humbled at how strong I am.”

There were posts from people who battled drug addiction but got help and are living a sober life. There were posts from those thankful for law enforcement. There were many who, like Stigar, once were homeless and now have places to live.

Reader Ruby Garcia’s post is purely inspirational:

“I’m most thankful for ‘my miracle baby’ who doctors were pronouncing deceased before he was even born weighing only 1 lb., 5 oz and many complications to follow,” she wrote. “The Lord answered my prayers and left his child with me for me to raise and love, is the most greatest gift of all. After abdominal surgery, oxygen, needles, medication, many tests, and tubes and tears, my son today is a happy 2-year-old little boy with no serious issues who had all odds against him. I believe in Miracles!”

I would think Garcia and reader Florans Gevergizian might have plenty to talk about.

“After years of trying to have a child, finding out we can’t due to my medical condition, losing an ovary to an ovarian cancer scare, having a rare blood disorder on top of other medical problems, and doctors telling us we have no chance of having kids, we were blessed with a healthy baby boy who will be a year old next month!” Gevergizian wrote. “He and my husband, who stuck by me through everything, are my biggest blessings and I’m thankful every day (not just Thanksgiving) for having them in my life.”

Nancy Hall-Smith is inspired by her 18-year-old daughter, Frankie Quarles, who has Stage 5 lupus nephritis, a kidney inflammation caused by lupus, an autoimmune disease.

“She stays in and out of the hospital, she takes a ton of medications and she is currently receiving chemotherapy,” Hall-Smith wrote. “Through it all, she is still a full-time college student, part-time high school cheerleading coach and an amazingly positive person. For the last four years, she has had a contest where she takes children on a $500 shopping spree for receiving good grades. She pays for the shopping spree with her own money.”

Some are thankful for the help they’ve received for their children with autism and other disorders.

“I am thankful that I had three special-needs children,” Patricia Malone wrote. “They changed the way I see the world and allowed me to be more understanding of others. They make me a better person and change the world every day one smile at a time.”

Ariel Hicks offered thoughts so many other families have experienced. “SOOO thankful for my family! My brother, an Army vet, and his wife, and doggies will be enjoying a Modesto Thanksgiving this year!! It’s such a treat to have my brother and his family around. It’s almost like we are kids again!!”

Reader Natalie Volk is thankful that her brother survived being hit by an Amtrak train a little more than two years ago “and also grateful for my amazing family and all the struggles we have come through with my brother’s accident,” she added.

A few expressed thanks that they live in Modesto, while one voiced his pleasure for having moved to Texas.

There were many, many more, including this one from Cassandra Briscoe-Miles, who wrote, “I am thankful that the less fortunate will have a healthy meal and will not go to bed hungry.”

Demetrius Stigar, having served roughly 175 meals this week, took it upon himself to make sure of that.

Bee columnist Jeff Jardine can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or (209) 578-2383. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJardine57.

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