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Dinner seeks to help those who need it most

By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Several local groups are gearing up to serve up to 80 homeless and poor tonight. What Would Jesus Do? Inc. is working with the Auburn Salvation Army and various local churches to host a dinner from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the Mount Vernon Grange Hall. Sharon Ferrante, who works for the Salvation Army seasonally and is the foothills director for WWJD?, said this is an annual effort spearheaded by the two organizations. “We jointly share in this volunteer and donations-wise,” Ferrante said. Ferrante said organizers used to hold a breakfast, but all the holiday breakfasts and dinners on Christmas weekend this year, as well as the rainy forecast, inspired an early dinner. “This year we moved it to a dinner, and the reason we are doing this is because we have had such horrible weather,” she said. Those who attend can receive hot meals, and local churches are planning to donate hats, gloves and coats. Ferrante said the event would also include music. “At least for one night they will be able to enjoy the (traditions) of Christmas,” Ferrante said. Joel Thompson, coordinator for the event and member of Calvary Newcastle Church, said he has been amazed by the community involvement in the dinner. “There are just a lot of people who are helping,” Thompson said. “We have probably 30 to 40 volunteers. As I asked for help, everybody has just responded tremendously.” Thompson said he was inspired to get involved when some homeless people approached him as he was ringing a Red Kettle bell for the Salvation Army. The homeless people said they were cold and needed sleeping bags. They also told him they don’t get hot meals, and he knew he wanted to be a part of making sure they got at least one. Credit for the dinner should go to the inspiration volunteers receive from God, Thompson said. Monetary donations for the event will go straight back into the community, and anything left over will go toward What Would Jesus Do? Inc., Thompson said. The group still needs donations of casserole, bean salad, vegetable dishes, brownies, sandwich bags, condiments, warm clothing and more, Thompson said. Thompson said he hopes the spirit of the dinner continues throughout the year. “I pray it lasts beyond Christmas,” he said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ WWJD? dinner for the homeless and poor When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday Where: Mount Vernon Grange Hall, 3185 Bell Road, Auburn Who is invited: The homeless and poor of the Auburn area For information or to donate: Leave a message at (530) 889-9953 or visit wwjdinc.org ------------------------------------------------------ Red Kettle donations down The Auburn area is seeing a decline in Red Kettle donations this year, according to Stefanie Vrapi, divisional public relations director for the Salvation Army’s Del Oro Division. “Red Kettle donations are a vital part of the organization and help keep them funded throughout the year,” Vrapi said. “With shortfalls in kettle donations, the organization fears that there won’t be enough money to fund needed services later on in the calendar year, when funding tends to run dry.” Ken Tokutomi, a director for the Auburn Salvation Army, said the Red Kettle donations are down thousands of dollars compared to last year. “We are down $4,500 as of Monday,” Tokutomi said. Tokutomi said numerous volunteers have been providing coverage throughout Auburn, but the organization is always looking for more. Red Kettles are set up around Auburn through Friday. “The Red Kettles are the single largest fundraiser for the Salvation Army,” he said. “It’s important to donate, because a lot of people are one paycheck away from being homeless, and you could be clients (some day).” Anyone interested in volunteering or donating can call Sharon Ferrante at (530) 889-3990, ext. 22.