La Jolla seniors serve at Gleanings for the Hungry


By Walter D.

Hofmann,M.D., retired

Fifteen seniors from La Jolla Presbyterian Church traveled to Gleanings for the Hungry in Sultana recently to spend a week working as volunteers in a program that has been giving food to the hungry in 30 nations around the world for the last 28 years.

Sultana is in the heart of California’s breadbasket, the Central Valley, 10 miles east of Dinuba. My roommate was Dr. Clyde Wright, a retired baby-catcher. Lou Payne, a resident at White Sands, met his son, Richard, who flew into Fresno from Asheville, N.C., to spend the week with his father.

Our group was led by Nanci and Norm Lewis. Doug Nau drove the church van. Doug’s wife, Ginny, and Betsy Wiedle were bouncing around in back.

For five days, it was our job to pack dried peaches into plastic bags, which were put into 5-gallon plastic buckets, then placed on a pallet and fork-lifted into a huge cargo container to be trucked to a port for the long ocean trip to a foreign nation.

When the container arrives at the destination, it is met by “disciples” who’ve been trained by Gleanings to distribute the food to the needy.

The program is organized by a year-round staff of volunteers who must depend on churches, friends and families to support their expenses. They live in modest homes on a 20-acre compound.

During the summer, hundreds of high school and college students process tons of donated peaches. The fruit, which is perfectly good and nutritious, is not suitable for the regular market because of size or minor blemishes.

The peaches are pitted, put onto huge trays and wheeled into a shed for sulfur dioxide treatment. The fruit is then dried out in the hot San Joaquin Valley sun for one week.

During the fall season, several groups of seniors, such as our team, do the packing.

We also were happy to do other necessary jobs. We packaged a dry-vegetable soup mix, quite simple and tasty — just add water.

Led by the Gleanings staff, we tackled still more projects. Some of the wooden drying trays were damaged and needed repair, landscaping projects needed completing, and there were kitchen tasks.

At the entrance to the facility were three flagpoles. Being military veterans, several of us noticed that the flags were not flying in the proper order, so we took on yet another task. When we were done, the American flag, the California state flag and the church flag hung in splendor.

The Gleanings’ story is truly inspirational. If you would like to join next year, leave your name and telephone number with Nanci Lewis at the church office or call (858) 454-0713.