Salvation Army dinner draws hundreds in Los Banos

A volunteer kitchen staff churned out plate after plate of Thanksgiving food Saturday at The Salvation Army’s community meal.

About 25 volunteers plated turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes and desserts and served the roughly 300 diners at the organization’s Fourth Street address.

Bonnie Roberts, a Salvation Army envoy, said the dinner went well even though the volume of people being served could get overwhelming at times.

“It’s hurry up and wait,” she said. “The toughest part is getting it where everybody comes in, sits down, gets served and it’s not a big hassle.”

Scores of people, some homeless and others down on their luck, packed The Salvation Army facility for the holiday meal. Just about everyone was grateful.

Christina Esparza, who Roberts approached when she spotted her sitting in front of a dollar store, is appreciative of The Salvation Army allowing her to not only eat a warm meal, but also providing a place for her to take a shower beforehand.

“It touches my heart a lot,” Esparza said. “It’s a little moment to come back to reality. It’s like you haven’t had family for a while and it comes back to you again.”

Sean Rios brought his grandmother to the dinner.

“It’s a chance to eat with your family,” he said, describing what the dinner meant to him. “It’s all positive. That’s where we all need to be, with family.”

Having chronic double-digit unemployment and wages lower than many other areas in the state, Los Banos is a city whose poor find themselves often utilizing services provided by The Salvation Army.

According to staff, The Salvation Army hands out more than 200 food boxes a month, receives more than 40 calls a day regarding assistance with utilities and offers used clothing. The organization also opened a computer lab for job seekers last year.

Although it is located in Los Banos, The Salvation Army facility serves most of the West Side.