Food Closet feeds 600 for holidays

By Reggie Ellis

Many of us will spend part of Christmas Day throwing away the excess food that will go bad if no one eats it. But Exeter residents shouldn't feel too bad as most of them have helped - either through an organization or personal donation - the Exeter Food Closet fed more than 600 people this Christmas.

Pastor Bud Mayabb handed out Christmas food baskets to eligible families on Dec. 14 with each family member over the age of 5 getting two boxes of food.

"This country was built on a Judeo-Christian foundation and the main concept of that is giving just as the Lord gave his only begotten son for us," Mayabb said. "Giving help to others is really what comes to mind this time of year. There is always a lot more giving that what we see going on."

The Exeter Food Closet is funded through a variety of sources, but primarily through annual funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency ($17,500), the City of Exeter ($10,000), and FoodLink ($4,000). There are also five churches who give a small amount on a monthly basis, such as the Free Will Baptist, Church of Christ, New Life Assembly, United Methodist and David Ministries. Other donations are sporadic such as the Exeter Community Service Guild, the Exeter Lions Club, Curves for Women and the Church of God of Exeter. Then there are a few families that donate on their own each year such as Charles and Frances Kirkman, Dennis and Joan Dismuke and Ron and Norma Svenhard.

Most of the food comes from Foodlink, a nonprofit food bank that distributes more than 6 million pounds of food annually to a network of food pantries and other non-profit organizations to feed needy families in the surrounding area. The rest come from canned food drives, normally led by Rocky Hill School.

Ten pallets of food were delivered to the Food Closet on Dec. 13 and the giving continued when students in the Exeter Community Based Instruction Program gave their time to help unload the food and pack them into boxes for families. Held at the New Life Assembly of God, Kathy Cavanagh and a three aides teach severely handicapped students between the ages of 18 and 22 job training and life skills, such as counting back money or how to manage their money. Students do work in the community and then receive a paycheck through the program under the umbrella of the Tulare County Office of Education. Their regular work includes cleaning the alleyways, doing janitorial work at the schools and helping out at the Food Closet on Mondays. The students who helped unload the Christmas food were Diana McGregor, Rita and Rocio Nazarette, Ikjoo Kim, Jackie Rico, Tony Espinoza, Luis Lopez, Frank Rios, Evaristo Rendon and Nicole Hankins.

"It is real special to have them come down and help out," Mayabb said.

In 2003, the Exeter Food Closet provided $26,000 in assistance to families in Exeter. A third of that money, Mayabb said, went toward rental payment assistance with a maximum of $250 per month per family.

"A lot of these people have seasonal jobs or just fall on hard times and need a little help until they get back on their feet," he said. "Just the other day a woman stopped me and told me that she and her husband had not seen me for awhile because they found jobs and no longer needed help. Those are the kind of stories we need to think about. Those are the kind of people that we are trying to help."

Mayabb said while Christmas is a special time for giving and helping those less fortunate, there is a year-round need for food. The Bible talks about fasting for atonement, mourning and ritual, but Mayabb said a modern application of fasting would be to take the money you save by fasting for one day each week and then spend that money to help feed someone in need.

"Fifteen to 20 dollars a week adds up to a lot in a year," Mayabb said. "What helps me the most is when people give a little on a regular basis, like $5 or even $10 a month." If 1,000 people in Exeter gave $5 a month for an entire year that would raise $60,000 for the Food Closet. "Just put it into your budget off to the side somewhere and it can really make a difference in someone's life."

Start typing and press Enter to search