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Easter spirit is alive amidst pandemic concerns
Pastor Dave Larson
New Life Christian Center Pastor Dave Larson delivers a Palm Sunday sermon through YouTube. All of the church’s services have been transitioned to online during the coronavirus pandemic.

Easter is normally a time when families gather at their places of worship and children flock to fields on the hunt for brightly-colored eggs with treasures inside. While the holiday will be celebrated a little differently this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, locals have plans to responsibly spread the joy of the season.

In Christianity, Easter is the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Preceded by Holy Week, Easter Day is the high point of the Christian liturgical calendar. Historically, Easter Sunday has seen churches packed to capacity with families and individuals reaffirming their faith. Due to stay-at-home orders, however, many churches have gone virtual.

This Sunday will be the fifth week that Turlock’s New Life Christian Center has offered all its services in an online format. The church has a section of its website dedicated to Holy Week, with a verse of the day, video discussion guides, music videos and activities for the kids.

There will be a Sunrise Easter service livestreamed at 6:55 a.m. Sunday, followed by a traditional service that will be uploaded at 9 a.m. Sunday online and can be watched any time after that.

“We do have some incredibly gifted technical people. We were already doing some things online. It’s been a challenge, and we’re learning as we go. It was somewhat a seamless transition thanks to team,” said NLCC Pastor Dave Larson.

Larson said along with offering online videos and resources, the church’s small groups are meeting on Zoom or Google Hangouts.

Even with the continuing of services, however in a digital format, he said it’s been rough on many community members.

“I think everyone is wrestling with a low-grade anxiety. A lot that is unknown, wondering about health of family, friends and the community. There’s fear around jobs, finances and the community health. We don’t want to live in fear. God has this and it’s not a surprise to Him. We have hope and we’re learning to trust when things are so uncertain,” said Larson.

One way the church is helping others during these uncertain times is through its food pantry. Larson said the church serves as a food bank for the community year-round, but in the last several weeks has drastically increased the amount of groceries being handed out.

“We’ve given out 80 bags of groceries to 40 plus families and it keeps growing,” Larson said.

Anyone can show up to receive groceries from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the church’s parking lot, 2918 W. Tuolumne Rd., Turlock.

The church is also accepting food donations from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

For more information on New Life Christian Center’s services, visit https://newlifecc.com/holy-week-easter/

Westside Ministries will be spreading the Easter message of hope through a massive food give-away this Sunday. Families can stop by the ministries’ parking lot at 952 Columbia Ave., Turlock, from 9 a.m. to noon on Easter Sunday and receive a food basket.

“We’re attempting to give out 500 food baskets on Easter,” said the ministries’ founder and pastor JoLynn DiGrazia. “The best way for us to show hope to our community is with a tangible gift and show them that they’re not alone, especially on Easter.”

Westside Ministries has temporality suspended its Sunday worship services. The ministry has been holding prayer meetings on Zoom and handing out food any day of the week when families are in need.

“We’ve distributed 10 to 15 tons of fresh fruits, vegetables and milk in the past two to three weeks. We know that the need it there. People are being affected, especially kids. We’re just trying to help,” she said.

“Just as Christ gave his life for us, we will continue to give until the last.”

The ministry was a safe place for many Turlock youth through its dance and after-school programs, which had to close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We talk to the families all the time. We have gone by homes where we know families are at very high risk. We’ve also checked on our homeless families. We’ve made available food at any time. We have some families who live in hotels and they asked for materials to make their own face masks,” said DiGrazia.

“We’re just being available,” she said.

For information on how to donate to Westside Ministries’ food program, visit https://www.westsideministriesturlock.com/

Easter Bunny
Ranch of Horror is putting away its scary clown faces for the time being and instead hopping into the Easter spirit with Bunny Grams (Photo contributed).

For families saddened that community Easter egg hunts have been canceled, there still may be a way for children to catch a glimpse of the Easter Bunny.

Local haunted house attraction Ranch of Horror is putting away its scary clown faces for the time being and instead hopping into the Easter spirit.

Locals can order a Bunny Gram this weekend and have a family-friend Easter rabbit come by their home and hide stuffed eggs in their yard or a basket of goodies.

“This is the first year for Bunny Grams,” said Heather May of ROH. “We were planning on doing it before the quarantine, but decided we could still do it with the kids watching from the windows. We tell the kids that they can’t touch the bunny or he’ll lose his magic.”

For information on ordering a Bunny Gram, call 209-947-8999 or visit Ranch of Horror, Inc. on Facebook.

Local photographers Brad and Melissa Treadwell will host the Easter Bunny on their front yard this Sunday and are inviting the community to drive by and give him a wave.

The couple normally spends this time of year taking photos of youngsters with the Easter Bunny, but due to stay-at-home orders, that won’t be possible.

“We can’t be with our extended family so, we thought we’d spend a few hours making some kids happy,” said Melissa Treadwell.

Community members are invited to drive by their home from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and wave to the Easter Bunny. They will not be allowing photos to maintain social distancing. The Treadwells’ home is located at 2994 Colorado Ave., Turlock.

Residents of Denair may see the Easter Bunny from their own front yards on Sunday, as he will be riding around town with the Denair Fire Department starting at 11 a.m. The bunny’s approach will be heralded by the fire truck siren. He will be waving, but not stopping for hugs or pictures.