Despite being retired, former president Olga Holcombe came back to the local pantry to help spearhead the event after the pantry’s recent president, Sylvia Soberanis was placed in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in San Jose shortly following Thanksgiving day. Holcombe wished Soberanis a speedy recovery, and went back to her former post as head of the basket giveaway for the event.
With hardly any time left between the two holidays, Holcombe and her husband managed their resources, pulling together local Patterson High School students, Center for Human Resource specialists and the Patterson/West Stanislaus Fire Department, as well as many other volunteers, to gather food and necessities in order for the annual basket giveaway to commence.
Chief Steve Hall of the Patterson Fire Department said they received a call from a representative of the Food Coalition, stating the Food Pantry were in desperate need of volunteers. Ten firefighters made their way immediately to the Masonic Hall, where boxes were being packed for the annual Christmas Baskets.
“It’s just another way of helping out the community,” said Hall, swiftly moving between rows of boxes of food.
This year, Holcombe said 327 families signed up to receive baskets— the largest number of applicants they’ve had to provide to date. Holcombe smiled throughout the entire packing process, and felt that extending a hand during the holidays was considered a priceless act.
“It is a very rewarding experience,” said Holcombe, watching several volunteers place eggs and bread in various cardboard boxes. “I’ve been doing this since 1991, and I hope we continue to do this for a long time. There has been so much growth. For the last 3 to 4 years, we’ve had close to 300 applicants. Now the families are getting bigger.”
Although the number of applicants has risen to such a high rate, Holcombe said it has been a pleasure working alongside many members of the community, who act as volunteers. Holcombe deeply expressed her thanks for Dave Santos, who provided the large amount of boxes needed to carry the food, and yams. Volunteers also procured apples, bread, eggs, margarine, canned foods and meat.
“We owe everything to our volunteers,” said Holcombe. “It means everything to have people donate.”
Despite experiencing hard times and providing for a vast amount of applicants, Holcombe said she believed everything would turn out alright in the end.
“If you want to see controlled chaos, come here. We always get it done,” she said with a smile. “Every year, if I see there isn’t enough food, I pray to God. Somehow, we always manage to get by.”
On Saturday, Dec. 13, local scouts helped hand out the baskets at Masonic Hall, located on 600 North 6th St., to their respective applicants.
Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24, or firstname.lastname@example.org.