Volunteer Need ContinuesJan 06, 2023 12:00AM ● By Story and photos by Debra Dingman
L-R: Pastor Frank Salamone, Monica Sepulveda, Janette Barrango, and Cari Loftin and her children all helped Cornerstone Church Sanctuary turn into the Community Christmas Program with donations of coats, blankets, socks, and many, many toys.
DIXON, CA (MPG) - Christmas may be over but the demands continue – and more volunteers are especially needed to keep the Dixon Community Christmas Program running for 2023, according to a nearly exhausted Monica Sepulveda, Cornerstone Church secretary. She volunteered from sunup to sundown the last few weeks leading up to the major holiday, especially after the donations kept coming while helping hands diminished.
The Community Christmas Program is the new version of the long-time charity that helped 500 to 800 disadvantaged families of Dixon through the holidays. The new leadership including Mike Hamilton and Jack Caldwell spent their first year creating a new Board of Directors and making the endeavor officially a non-profit. The excitement pulled new faces into the work but with the pandemic, so much had to change, including Santa’s personal visits with the children.
This year and with more volunteers stepping back, there were only 90 families to serve and the traditional paperwork to identify those in need went away but Hamilton and Caldwell persevered, arranging connections with Recology, for example, to bring pallets of toys from storage to the church. Sepulveda and a dozen volunteers stepped up even more, coming together like a large family pulling for a sick one.
Patti Aguirre who has been collecting toys from the drops around town for 13 years was still working alongside another long-timer Arlene Mendoza and Janette Barango, Cari Loften and her Dad, Mike Loftin the week before Christmas setting up in the front and in the back of the church.
“This is about children,” Mike said, then pointed out the words, ‘The Little Church with the Big Heart’ on a sign at the front of the church.
“The parents are actually excited that they get to pick out the toys for their children,” said Sepulveda. The toys are not wrapped this year – which turned out to be a plus as the parents were excited, they could choose toys they knew their child wanted, she explained.
“During the pandemic, eight of us did all the wrapping and we spent 10,000 hours on Zoom calls. It’s nice to have people that think like me,” said Sepulveda, as she stood in the middle of the church sanctuary filled with coat racks, a dozen or more tables filled with toys, blankets, slippers, and socks. The back room was a sea of brown paper bags filled with food that will also be given out to the families as well as senior shut-ins. “The Dixon community goes above and beyond in giving,” she added.
Sepulveda started what she calls a “canning/harvesting ministry” a dozen years ago that developed into the Cornerstone food bank that now takes up most of the back of the church. With the help of Robin Adams, her “right hand person,” and Ron and Margie Nordman, 40 bags go to needy folks every Friday.
She admits that there are people who could be taking advantage of the charity but says she is not “the food police.”
“I pray about it all the time, ‘Lord, bring the people who need this.’ If they choose to come and take advantage, that’s between them and God,” Sepulveda said. “We’re an outreach church. You never know whose soul you’re touching.”
Sepulveda and the few other volunteers want to see the Community Christmas Program and the food program continue but they know new energy has to come in.
“You can’t say ‘this is it,’” Aguirre scolded Sepulveda.
“We need help and don’t know how this can go on. It can be someone who re-imagines how to work it,” Sepulveda said. If you can help, please contact (707) 678-5234 or drop by 185 West Cherry Street in Dixon.