OAKHURST – Push through the double glass doors at Manna House and you’ll instantly feel welcome. Sunlight streams into a large, clean room as volunteers bustle about filling boxes with pantry staples destined for anyone who needs them.
A spacious kitchen area has cupboards of basic foods, like beans, soup, sugar, rice and peanut butter, along with several cases of ramen noodles. That’s just a sampling of their bounty.Manna House offers more than food. Rooms hold the myriad necessities of life, along with many niceties, too: clothes of every kind, kitchen wares, holiday decorations, stuffed animals and diapers are all neatly stacked on stock shelves.
All of this well-organized abundance is available for no cost, because the real specialty of Manna House is to comfort those in need.
Well known in the mountain area, Manna House is a nonprofit organization funded entirely by donations received from local churches affiliated with the Mountain Ministerial Association, and other sources including schools, service organizations, businesses and individuals.
Pat Sebring is Clothing Coordinator and Secretary of the Board at Manna House, and says every day begins with a devotional meeting in the prayer room.
Sebring assures visitors that donations of all kinds are welcome. Pat stood before a huge stack of goods waiting to be sorted, and explained the process of receiving from Manna House.
“When you walk in the door everything is free,” says Sebring. “Visitors are asked to fill out a form with basic information like address and number of people in the family, and income, but no one is turned away,” whether a family of two or twenty.
“We don’t ever charge for anything,” promises Sebring, adding, “Some of our best volunteers have been recipients. We want our volunteers to make visitors as comfortable as possible so they want to come here.”
While cash donations are down due to a tough economy, Sebring sees no shortage of stuff when it comes to the detritus of life. She explains that every single item donated, however disheveled, is accounted for and recycled in a number of different ways.
“A lot of what we get is trash,” says Sebring of the bags of items lugged in by residents, “but there’s a lot of good stuff, too.”
Clothes are sorted, cleaned and carefully organized on racks in a room that nearly resembles a department store. Useful items like pots and pans are shelved and available for choosing, while most decorative items and home furnishings are sent to the Hines Hospice Thrift Shop in Madera.
In the end, what may seem like leftover trash is turned into cash, when Manna House sells all their unwanted clothing and textiles to an Arizona based nonprofit that ships American cast-offs across the globe. Tidemann Globe, Inc. doesn’t pay much, according to Sebring, though it all adds up to fund the needs of Manna House.
“Anything we receive that’s damaged goes into the pod where it’s recycled through Tidemann,” Sebring says. “They pay pennies per pound and it’s sent around the world. It’s such a blessing, since we need money, so we don’t even mind when people are dumping stuff on us because we can put it in the pod and ship to Arizona for payment.”
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, a dedicated volunteer adds important extras to a box going to a small family: toothbrush and paste, toilet paper, soap. During the prime harvest season, gardeners donate magnificent samples of fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement the Manna House pantry, and people who raise poultry give farm fresh eggs.
With holidays approaching, more churches, businesses, schools and organizations run food and coat drives to help out. Other times of the year, Manna House relies on low-cost purchases from the Madera Food Bank.
Sebring says the enterprising Coarsegold Girl Scout Troop 2866 recently donated 250 coats they’d collected. Still, as the mountain area’s primary resource for those in need, Manna House is always on the look-out for donations of certain items.
Top of their list, currently, are sleeping bags, towels, pots and pans, and kids’ coats and warm clothes including socks and mittens. They can also use both paper and plastic grocery bags, and are in dire need of large, heavy-duty lawn trash bags. Manna House is also looking for additional volunteers.
Sebring invites the community to stop by, whether it’s to give or receive. When you do, be sure to say hello to her number one volunteer and supporter, dachshund Maggie. “She’s been coming since she was 4 months old, and she’s 5 now,” says Sebring of the small dog with two different colored eyes. “She’s always here when I am.” Now, that’s a good welcome.
Manna House is located at 410390 Junction Drive and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday – Friday.