By Denny Boyles
MENDOTA — As she watched dozens of families wait patiently in the sun for pre-packaged boxes of food, Maria Ayala explained how the drought has affected residents of this Fresno County farming community.
“In their minds they should be at work, not here, in this heat and in this line for food,” said Ayala, drought relief coordinator for the Community Food Bank of Fresno said. “We try to make this as easy and as comfortable as possible but they still have to stand in the sun for most of the wait. If they didn’t absolutely need this food to feed their families they wouldn’t be here.”
Today (July 24), more than two dozen PG&E volunteers joined the food bank, volunteers from the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the United Way and the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission to distribute food to more than 300 families. Most of the people who received the food would normally be working this time of year, harvesting crops or maintaining fields. Without water, the work has also dried up, Ayala said.
Fulfilling this need not only drew dozens of local PG&E workers, but also a group of teenagers on a summer mission trip from their church in Idaho. Group leader Marc Schlegel said he and the teens were spending a week in the Central Valley participating in service projects. In Mendota, they worked side-by-side with the PG&E volunteers.
“I know for the youth it’s been a surprise that so many people in communities such as Mendota need this type of assistance,” Schlegel said. “It’s something they’ve never been exposed to — certainly not at this level.”
As he helped pass out food, PG&E intern Francisco Caballero said he also was surprised by the number of people who came for the packages of food, and was grateful for the opportunity to help.
“It’s giving me a chance to bond with the people I hope to work with at PG&E, and giving all of us insight into this community that we serve,” Caballero said. “We are seeing the need here firsthand. If you don’t understand that this need exists, you can’t truly serve a community like Mendota.”
Ayala said having a volunteer partner like PG&E means helping a greater number of residents.
“We simply couldn’t do it alone, we couldn’t help so many in such a short amount of time,” Ayala said. “PG&E is crucial to this effort being a success.”
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