Railroad event supports the hungry

On Aug. 18, South Valley residents can support local food programs while enjoying a number of intriguing garden railroad displays.

South Valley residents are invited to an enjoyable event that happens only once a year. On Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., a dozen members of the Bay Area Garden Railway Society will open their yards in Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Hollister and Salinas for public viewing of their beautiful gardens and elaborate model railroad layouts.

Model railroading is a popular hobby, and the Bay Area organization was formed in 1988 with 30 members and 15 displays. By now it has grown to more than 300 members and 100 layouts.

This annual South Valley event began nearly 20 years ago when local garden railroaders set aside one day each year to invite friends and neighbors on a tour of their facilities.

In the last decade, they decided to open it to interested members of the public. Each visitor was requested to bring a nonperishable food item, and the food collected was donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. More recently, the grocery donations have been given directly to two of our area’s valuable local agencies dedicated to helping the needy. Last year, 350 visitors contributed nearly $5,000 in cash and foodstuffs.

One recipient of aid is Gilroy’s St. Joseph Family Center, a nonprofit agency sponsored by local churches and generously supported by the community. This organization offers many emergency services such as:

– Food assistance pantry

– Brown bag lunches

– Hot meals for the homeless

– Employment services

– Rental, utility and transportation assistance

– Senior hot meals and shuttle services

The other recipient is Hollister’s Community Pantry, a self-help food program for low-income families that distributes food to local charities serving the needy, as well as provides nutritional education and advocacy for the poor. Currently they supply approximately 90,000 meals each month.

Dale McAnally, one of the event’s organizers, invites residents to this “wonderful family event, a really different kind of food drive. Visitors will enjoy a full day of entertainment while helping the poorest members of our communities.

“This is a particularly difficult time of the year for food distribution programs. Donations peak during the Holiday season, but summer is when kids are out of school with no access to free school lunches and really need our help.  In this bad economy it is especially difficult,” McAnally said.

To visit these model railroad exhibits “running through some of the most attractive back yards in this area,” bring a nonperishable item like canned goods, pasta, cereal or a check in any amount made out to St. Joseph’s Family Center or Community Pantry after Aug. 11 to either of these locations:

– Garden Accents, 111255 Lena Ave. (off U.S. 101 near the Masten exit) in Gilroy

– BookSmart, 80 E. Second Ave. in Morgan Hill

When you make your donation, you will be given a tour guidebook showing the location of each display with some details about it. For more information, contact Dale at (408) 848-1440 or [email protected]

Coincidentally, there will be another fundraising event for worthy local causes held the same day in San Martin. The San Martin Neighborhood Alliance is sponsoring a Custom & Classic Car Show from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ludewig Ranch, 13865 Monterey Road. For $5, guests can see the cars and trucks, enjoy great food and live music, and participate in a huge raffle and silent auction. For more information, call (408) 683-2055 or email [email protected]

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