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A giving tradition
One woman’s decades-long campaign to feed families in need comes to an end
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Serah Martinez (center) poses for a picture on Thursday with family and friends who helped distribute food boxes to 60 families with young children in need before the Thanksgiving holiday (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

Every November for over 20 years, Serah Martinez has more than given thanks for her blessings, she’s passed them on.

Since 1994, Martinez has collected and distributed food boxes to families with young children in need of a little help to get them through the Thanksgiving holiday week. Last Thursday, Martinez — with the help of her family and friends — gave out enough food to last 60 families from 12 different schools around the area at least one week and possibly more.

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Letty Lopez picks up food boxes from the Martinez family for Head Start preschool families at Osborn and Crowell elementary schools (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

Martinez attributes her giving ways to watching her mother serve others.

“When I was growing up, people would come over — immigrants mostly — and my mother would go to the cupboards and fix boxes of food for them. I grew up with a nature of giving,” said Martinez.

When Martinez went to work at California State University, Stanislaus in the early 1990s she met a single mother who had a need and that’s when her Thanksgiving food box campaign began.

The effort started with Martinez storing food in her apartment and grew to include help from her brother, David Martinez, who donated his garage for the year-long collection and organization of both dry foods and perishable items.

A host of organizations and individuals donated items to the 60 food boxes this year, including: Yosemite Meats, Rizo Lopez Foods, Cozy Shack, Paul Mayer, Dallas Distributors, Don Whisenhunt, Aguilar Farms and Dole Foods Atwater.

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The organization and distribution of the food boxes took over David Martinez’s Turlock garage for over a week before the Nov. 15 distribution (KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal).

While the Thanksgiving food box effort has been a blessing to hundreds of families, this was the last year for Martinez.

“It’s really worthwhile. We get beautiful letters from the school in appreciation, but I just don’t have it in me anymore,” said Martinez. “it’s bittersweet to know this is the last year.”