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  • Sisters Joslyn, left, and Melanie Gaspar

  • Olga and Samuel Lopez

  • Olga Chigozie

  • James and Lindsay Smith with children Matthew and Elizabeth

  • Ruth Mays

  • Rosalinda Arroyo

Run to Feed the Hungry: Who benefits

Published: Friday, Nov. 18, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 - 2:54 pm

For 18 years, Run to Feed the Hungry has generated money for programs of the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. Between now and Thanksgiving, we'll bring you stories of local folks who benefited from Food Bank & Family Services programs.

Melanie Gaspar came to the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services' Youth Academy at risk of having to repeat the fourth grade. Her younger sister, Joslyn Gaspar, also joined the Youth Academy program for homework help.

Their parents separated and the stress of the change left them feeling unsure, insecure, angry and sad, which affected their ability to focus on schoolwork.

Through the Food Bank's partnerships, staff connected the family with a counselor who helped them communicate effectively and build a positive environment for Joslyn and Melanie. Melanie progressed to the fifth grade.

The family now refers other families to the program who are experiencing hardship.

While Olga Lopez studied English at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services' Saca Community Learning Center, her son Samuel Lopez attended PlayCare, a cooperative program for children 1 to 5 years old.

Samuel initially was reluctant to speak to adults or other children, but he grew comfortable communicating in English and interacted with other children in activities such as cooking, gardening, science and music.

PlayCare offers parents the opportunity to focus on learning as they work toward self-sufficiency, knowing that their children are safe, engaged, having fun and preparing for preschool and kindergarten.

Ohia Chigozie moved to the United States several years ago from South Africa and quickly realized her key to success was education. With the birth of her son Chiderah she turned to the Mother-Baby program at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services for support and parent education classes on such topics as the value of making and using reusable diapers. Chigozie has since returned to school to complete her own education. "I want to offer my children something better and I know the only way to do that is with an education," she said.

Lindsay Smith and her husband, James, have participated in several of the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, starting with the Mother-Baby program when Lindsay was nine months pregnant. The couple attended family life workshop to earn diapers, formula, baby food and clothing for families in need. When Mother-Baby opened an incentive-based store last year the couple earned “Baby Bucks” to buy supplemental baby supplies like strollers, high chairs, swings and other larger items by attending multiple workshops each month. They now have had two children, Matthew and Elizabeth, who are regular participants in the Food Bank’s programs, including PlayCare.

Ruth Mays, 85, has diabetes and is a little unsteady on her feet. She was referred to Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ new Ssenior program, where she was matched with a volunteer who brought her nutritious food and companionship during her twice-monthly visits. Worried about Mays’ balance, Cindy Gabriel, the volunteer, contacted Rebuilding Together to have a grab handle installed in Mays’Ruth’s bathroom. Gabriel kept an eye on Mays after three of her grandchildren temporarily came to live with her. A Food Bank employee packed an especially big food box one month because of the extra mouths Mays had to feed. The grandchildren have gone back with their parents, and life has returned to normal for Mays. “Cindy is my angel,” she said.

Rosalinda Arroyo, mother of four, recently exchanged credits she earned by attending classes in the Mother-Baby program for a new crib. Since a 2008 fire destroyed part of her home and the majority of her belongings, Arroyo and her family had been sleeping on the carpet. Mother-Baby, a program of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, gives families information on a variety of topics to help them move toward economic self-sufficiency. Arroyo is participating in the program's cloth diaper project, which has helped her save money. She also graduated from a series of cooking courses that helped her learn healthy and delicious recipes to make for her family. Arroyo said she likes the opportunity to earn credits so she may trade in items in the baby boutique.

Thanksgiving Day Run to Feed the Hungry
Start time: 10K - 8:35 a.m.; timed 5K - 9 a.m.; untimed 5K and walkers - immediately after the 5K run.

Where: The J Street entrance to California State University, Sacramento.

How far: 5K (3.1 mile) run/walk and 10K (6.2 mile) run.

Expected number of participants: 25,000 to 28,000.

Register: Go online to until Nov. 22 at 11:59 p.m.

• Registration at the REI at 1790 Expo Parkway, Sacramento Nov. 20-23.

Cost: Pre-registration for adults: $35 untimed; $40 timed. Kids 15 and under: $20 untimed; $25 timed. Registration increases by $5 on race day, with no timing available.

Other ways to contribute: Call the Food Bank at (916) 456-1980 or go online at

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