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After-school, meal programs set to close
westside meals pic1
Westside Ministries volunteer Martha Hernandez plates a meal during a free dinner service on Thursday. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

A much-needed meal program serving families on the Westside of Turlock will soon come to an end due to lack of funding.

For years Westside Ministries —an organization that provides social, educational and spiritual services to children and families on the Westside of Turlock — served a free meal on Wednesday and Sunday nights and lunches for those kids who were out of school when there was year-round tracks .

Two years ago, the ministry started serving dinner five nights a week.

“In 1999, we were feeding people two nights a week,” said Westside Ministries Founder and Director JoLynn DiGrazia. “Then, when the recession got bad, we started feeding people five nights a week.”

Westside Ministries serves up to 300 people each meal, including the children who come to the ministries’ free after-school program named Klub Kafe and their parents.

 As of Nov. 14, however, the ministry will no longer be able to afford serving meals — and run the after-school program.

“It is getting really hard,” DiGrazia said of finding the funds to continue the programs.

Having enough food is not the problem, DiGrazia said. Westside Ministries has its own garden, tended to by the kids. Much of the food served comes from the garden, along with donations from local growers and grocery stores.

“We can hundreds of jars of tomatoes and corn in the summer,” she said. “But, it costs $400 a week in paper supplies to serve the food.”

The closing of Klub Kafe will also be a big loss to the families who depend on the safe — and free — after-school care, Di Grazia said.

“It gives the kids a place to come after school during those critical hours when most juvenile crime occurs — 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.,” she said. “They can hang out, do their homework while being supervised by trained and loving adults.”

Ernesto Santano, 15, said he comes to Klub Kafe “to do homework because Westside Ministries is a safe place and more relaxing.”

DiGrazia said the majority of families who send their kids to Westside Ministries are working-class poor who just can’t afford extra-curricular activities.

“Take those 300 kids and put them on the street and then see what happens,” she said.

To donate funds to Westside Ministries’ meal and after-school programs, call 667-8593.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.