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A helping hand at the holidays

The generosity of a caring community provided food and gifts for families in need once again this holiday season. Gustine Lions Club members, including Tony Peters, left, and Lynn Schultz, right, loaded pickup trucks and trailers to send delivery teams on their way Saturday morning.

The generosity of a caring community provided food and gifts for families in need once again this holiday season. Gustine Lions Club members, including Tony Peters, left, and Lynn Schultz, right, loaded pickup trucks and trailers to send delivery teams on their way Saturday morning.

GUSTINE – An outpouring of community support provided Christmas gifts and boxes of food to more than 50 Gustine and Santa Nella families this holiday season.

Lions Club members and community volunteers packed pickup trucks and trailers on a chilly Saturday morning and fanned out across the communities to make their holiday deliveries – which were made possible through the generosity of those who reached out to lend a helping hand.

“It has really been remarkable,” said Lions Club member Lynn Schultz, who chairs the annual food and toy collection.

Because of the outpouring, said Schultz and organizer Tiffany Vitorino, the campaign was able to fully meet the demand – which included well-stocked food boxes for 53 families and gifts for approximately 150 children.

“Each child received two to three toys, if not more,” Vitorino noted.

The Lions Club organized the Friday night canvass of neighborhoods in Gustine and Santa Nella to collect donations of food and toys left on doorsteps, as it has for decades in one of the club’s most cherished service projects.

But the campaign is truly a community effort to brighten the holiday season for those less fortunate – and a host of organizations and individual volunteers stepped forward to help make that effort a success.

A hefty donation of food from the Santa Nella community came in through Romero School.

At Gustine High, a variety of clubs and organizations – including an informal Christmas Charity Club – held a food and toy drive to support the effort.

Volunteers turned out in droves Friday night to help with the collection, sorting and packaging of food and gift-wrapping.

Among them were the varsity boys basketball team, the Christmas Charity Club, AVID students and Club Med (an ROP group) from Gustine High, as well as members of the newly-formed Forebay 4-H Club in Santa Nella, who brought toys and volunteered to help.

The Lions also had collection points at community businesses for toys, and received more than $1,000 in contributions to help with the project.

The Gustine Police Department accepted food donations which were turned over to the Lions.

Newman Salvation Army and Nob Hill’s Food for Families program also provided food items.

The toy collection was again supplemented by a donation from the Frank and Becky Dominguez family of Gustine. Friends of their son, Frank Dominguez Jr., who passed away in 1998, play an annual Thanksgiving football game in his memory. Participants donate toys which go to the family, and in turn to the Lions Club for distribution.

The club purchased bread, milk and turkeys to supplement the food deliveries.

Each family received a minimum of two food boxes filled with staples such as rice, beans, oil, canned foods, peanut butter, flour and sugar.

It all added up to Christmas for families facing hard times, and who might otherwise go without during the holiday season.

For the volunteers who make the deliveries, said Lion Mike Gandy, the fulfillment is in seeing the excitement and on the faces of the families.

“It is great,” said Gandy, who has been involved in the project for 25 years. “They are so appreciative. It makes it all worthwhile.”