Free Food Saturday

Written by Dale Buchanan

The August 22, 2020 Big Red Church, Drive-thru Food Distribution is now History. It is my pleasure to call it a success. In an earlier announcement I spoke of doing church in the Age of Coronavirus, yours truly was secretly skeptical perhaps even a little bit cynical about the chances of this totally new ministry Turning out well. I was wrong! In spite of some anxious moments everything fell into place.

In rough numbers there were: boxes of shelf-stable foods and  bags of fresh vegetables and fruit for everyone. I am reminded of the parable of the loaves and fishes. There were 139 households representing 566 individuals fed.  Also receiving food from our giveaway on Saturday were ten families from the Headstart that meets on the Big Red campus. We had lots of volunteers from Big Red, twenty young people from Teens That Care, and seven from Mike Gostanian’s Lions Club.

Before I forget the HEAD START, which meets on the Big Red Campus, was also served full portions.

Sometimes when everything works out I use the slang expression,  it  clicked into place. And that is exactly what happened on Saturday every thing just clicked!

Sometimes yours truly forgets.  Forgets that ours is a ministry of faith. When Jesus commissioned his disciples to feed the multitude, they replied, “we can’t.” Imagine how foolish the disciples must have felt as they started passing out that paltry handful of bread and fish. In essence they began with nothing  and finished with more than they started with.

Thank the good Lord that there are at Big Red, disciples willing to believe that they can turn  a trifling sum into a feast. “ I believe help thou my unbelief.”


Written by Dale Buchanan

The BIG RED FOOD PANTRY is back in business. Someone has suggested that the only constant is change and this bit of wisdom has assumed the status of a truism.

As the name suggests the primary mission of the, “Big Red Food Pantry,” has been and is, to deliver free food into the hands of the disadvantaged of our community. The CORONAVIRUS struck our community, state and our nation like a biblical plague,leaving us in disarray but like a truism it is forcing us to see change as the great constant. After months of quiet we met on June 18,2020 and a great spirit of change was moving amongst us. We assembled virtually via Zoom. COVID 19 had forced us to do some things differently. We tentatively agreed to change FREE FOOD FRIDAY, to FREE FOOD SATURDAY. Before the week was over it was obvious that Saturday would bring more volunteers. This ministry is labor intensive and this forced change will relieve the pressure on our senior volunteers. 

We met again on July 23 and other structural changes  happened to make the pantry work even more evenly distributed. The need to “Social Distance,” led us to instigate a ,” Drive-thru food distribution. This led to a partnership with Central California Food Bank  where they supply free boxes of assorted shelf-stable foods. The partnership with Food Bank sent our leadership to, “TEENS THAT CARE,” these teenagers have volunteered to load the food boxes into the automobiles.

The first Free Food Saturday will be a Drive thru Food  Distribution  And will happen  Saturday August 22, 2020, 9 am -12 noon.

This is not a call for money. It is an appeal for volunteers young and old. Just a bit of your time can open doors of service. For more information and to sign up call Mike Gostanian 930-6165 or Randy Oftedal 348-3365 .

The Age of Coronavirus

Written by Dale Buchanan

I recently attended my first meeting via Zoom. I mention this because until very recently I had never heard of Zoom and when I heard about it I dismissed it as something I would never do. I have been a lifelong avoider of meetings of any sort. I certainly was not going to ZOOM. But then along came our present pandemic and I found my self sitting ill at ease in front of a lap-top. 

It is certainly true that the only constant is change. I attended this meeting more than a little skeptical. I came away encouraged and hopeful. As the Food Pantry Group checked in it became obvious that it was a changed world and that new methods and new systems were going to be required as we serve food to the less fortunate in our community.

This post is designed to announce that  Free Food Friday is tentatively scheduled to happen on Saturday, August 22nd. Thus the first change.

Other changes are inevitable as we go forward. Hand in hand with the Saturday distribution is a recognition that the food pantry is a mission of the church and there is a need for volunteers.

More information will be available soon. In the meantime remember that Jesus said, “Feed my sheep,” and pray about donating an hour or so once a month.

Getting to Know You: The Pantry Gang

A column dedicated to the folks in the pews.

Written by Dale Buchanan

In the spotlight this week are the members of what this scribe affectionately calls the “Pantry Gang.”  Now it is true that “gang” has some bad connotations and may refer to an organized group of criminals, hoodlums or wrongdoers. Now our gang is organized, but here the resemblance to the above definition ends. This Pantry Gang is a group of people organized for a particular purpose. My investigative reporting has led me to believe that this definition is perfect.

Is this to suggest that some one individual dominates. Of course not!  Or that they are subject to mob rule? Definitely not! They are—every one of them—passionate about their cause. They speak, they listen, and the result is an operational plan that moves them as a cohesive gang toward the common goal.

Once the blueprint is complete and clear goals are established, this gang goes to work as one to accomplish that one purpose that unites them. They share a clear vision:  to feed the hungry. That is it. Everything they do is focused on providing nourishment for the malnourished.

Notice that they are “people from the pews,” which meets the criteria of this post. For certainly this gang comes from the pews. You will observe that this report will have no names because this gang has emerged from the pews and the social nature of their mission has melded their identity into one cohesive social unit. This systematic arrangement did not just happen willy-nilly. It is the direct result of gang activity. Once a month they meet and arrange the next operation. And mind you, it is a planning session. The amazing thing is the orderly, methodical way that these pew people proceed.

The Pantry Ministry is labor intensive. The planning is essential. The meetings are necessary. The growth has been phenomenal. From a closet in a back room providing primarily canned and dry goods to a very few to now providing meals to feed hundreds, the Pantry Gang at Big Red is literally heeding the words of Jesus when he said: “FEED MY SHEEP.”

Have you ever thought about joining a gang?  Now is your chance! Show up at the next gang meeting. Take part in the gang’s work. You will find the joy of belonging to the Pantry Gang a great experience.

Dale Buchanan is a member of FCCF with a passion for stories and writing. In between penning his own memoirs, he is helping us get to know our members, one pew at a time.

Some Enchanted Evening

Written by Dale Buchanan

Your “Getting to Know You” reporter went Friday last to Cabaret at the Big Red Church. Mind you this reporter had no idea what a Cabaret was. I had my notebook in my pocket thinking that there might be an opportunity to schedule a couple of interviews for this column. As the time drew near, my friend Gayle called and instructed me that shorts and a tee shirt would not be acceptable attire. After token resistance yours truly capitulated and slipped into a pair of long pants and a button-up shirt. She met me at the door. I passed inspection and we were off to Cabaret—she to serve as a volunteer, me with my nefarious plan to schedule at least a couple of “Grape Leaf” interviews.

We strolled in and found the Fellowship Hall transformed. Gayle disappeared to her volunteer responsibilities and I found a table and a chair—a place to sit and watch. Even at that early hour the room was a beehive of activity. All thoughts of my notebook and private interviews were erased as the enchantment of that room full of “people from the pews” became a living collage of good people working together to produce a Cabaret.

It took your intrepid reporter quite a while to absorb the enormity of this Cabaret. Before I go any further, it seems appropriate to attempt to describe the transformation of the Fellowship Hall from hall to Cabaret. This large room serves very well as the functional center of Big Red. For example, every Sunday morning after worship a steady stream of folks make the short walk from the Sanctuary to the Fellowship Hall. A light meal is served and Christian fellowship happens.

On Friday night this practical, functional room, for a few magical hours, ceased to be utilitarian and became, through the collaborative labor of Big Red pew members, a delightful, even magical, environment capable of turning that ordinary fellowship hall into an enchanted space.

This column cannot begin to chronicle the countless hours of preparation or count the endless details. There are no words to explain the ups and downs, the compromises required. Actually, there is no reason to think about these things. The proof is in the pudding!

You, everyone of you who stepped out of the pews of anonymity, served not for recognition but for love of your cause. You labored in love and dealt with frustrations and even disagreements. From all of this, from months of hard, time-consuming work came this enchanted evening.

Because of your tireless efforts the Cabaret was a success in every way imaginable. Those of us who attended were treated, dare I say—blessed, with a delightful evening. Old friends greeted. New friends met. A gourmet meal, exquisite music, enchanting ambiance, and a bounty of funds to continue and grow the Pantry ministry!

All of the above and more because Christians from the pews saw a need and responded. God bless you one and all!

Dale Buchanan is a member of FCCF with a passion for stories and writing. In between penning his own memoirs, he is helping us get to know our members, one pew at a time.

Cabaret Chef Spotlight: Chef Daniel Blake Oftedal

As the Cabaret nears, we’ll be highlighting the amazing and talented individuals who will be providing our entertainment for the evening.

It’s really no surprise that Chef Dan would one day be an executive chef for one of Fresno’s finest restaurants, Dave Fansler’s Yosemite Ranch.

As a young boy, Chef could be found standing in the kitchen on a step-stool, helping his Nana and Papa make foods like French toast, rigatoni, or chopping horseradish until his eyes were beet red to make the family’s famous sauce. Starting as a busboy, Chef worked his way up to a line cook. There he learned many secrets and tricks of the trade. It was then he realized he loved cooking, so in the spring of 2003, Chef Dan headed to San Francisco, where he attended The California Culinary Academy. In 2005, Chef Dan graduated with an Associate of Occupational Studies degree at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts.

The Cabaret will take place on September 7th at 6:00 pm. Tickets are available in the church office or after church on Sunday!

Cabaret Performer Spotlight: Trent Barry

As the Cabaret nears, we’ll be highlighting the amazing and talented individuals who will be providing our entertainment for the evening.

Trent Barry grew up in Visalia in a musical household; all six children were expected to and did study piano. He found his singing voice and began vocalizing recognizable tunes before he could speak a word. By age five, he was playing Mozart by ear; subsequently starting formal lessons which launched into what would be many years of rigorous study of classical piano. He studied in Fresno with Dr. Bob Bennett (CSUF) until graduating high school, and continued his study of piano at Occidental College, while majoring in art history and the visual arts.

Beyond the classical music that surrounded him and compelled him to practice long hours as a child, Trent loved Broadway, and learned entire scores from beginning to end, listening for countless hours of everything from the Sound of Music to Les Miserables. At age 8, he became involved in community theater. and performed numerous roles as a child and young adult.

Trent considers it a great pleasure and unexpected turn of events that he has found himself living the life of a professional musician. After 37 years of musical theatre, various choirs, seven seasons with the Tulare County Symphony, three seasons with the Fresno Philharmonic, recitals for Occidental College, UCLA, and CSUF, accompanist, and wedding and funeral musician, and church musician, Trent still enjoys sitting down at the piano and finding ways to make it new again. His favorite musical experience  with friends around the grand Yamaha in his living room, singing and playing whatever comes to mind, sharing an intimate bond over music and song that elevates the human experience and brings people together, through the universal language of music. 

The Cabaret will take place on September 7th at 6:00 pm. Tickets are available in the church office or after church on Sunday!

Cabaret Performer Spotlight: Daniel Townsend

As the Cabaret nears, we’ll be highlighting the amazing and talented individuals who will be providing our entertainment for the evening.

Daniel graduated from the Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State in May 2017, where he studied music composition as well as voice and opera. Since then, he has started working for Visalia Unified School District as a 2nd grade teacher at Crestwood Elementary School and music director for the musical at Green Acres Middle School.

He is also on the music staff for the Good Shepherd Catholic Parish of Visalia, through which he regularly cantors and plays the piano. Through involvement with Green Acres, Redwood High School, and the Tulare County Office of Education, he has appeared in over thirty productions, most notably as Lord Farquaad in “Shrek: The Musical”, as well as the operas “Carmen” and “Albert Herring” at Fresno State, and has directed and appeared in cabarets with the Visalia Players at the Ice House Theatre.

He has also performed with the Fresno Philharmonic several times as a member of the Fresno Master Chorale and additionally as a co-host of the Link Up children’s concert series. As a composer, he has written and had many works performed, and is in the process of creating an original musical. He soon hopes to pursue graduate degrees in music and/or education.

The Cabaret will take place on September 7th at 6:00 pm. Tickets are available in the church office or after church on Sunday!

Cabaret Performer Spotlight: Matthew Mazzei

As the Cabaret nears, we’ll be highlighting the amazing and talented individuals who will be providing our entertainment for the evening.

Matthew Mazzei has been studying, performing, and teaching the violin for more than twenty years. Born and raised in the Central Valley, Matthew attained both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree in Music from California State University, Fresno.

He has been a contracted first violinist in the Fresno Philharmonic for more than a decade, and has performed with such names as Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Renee Fleming, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Audra McDonald, and Kristin Chenoweth. Matthew has been a featured soloist on many occasions, performing concertos with the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra, the Fresno Community Orchestra, and the Kings County Symphony. His musical passions also include teaching, and he has more than twenty years of experience teaching individual lessons, chamber ensembles, and string orchestra classes.

Matthew currently plays on a Bartolomeo Tassini violin made in Venice, Italy in the year 1750. He feels incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to play on such a fine instrument, and hopes someday to pass it on to a deserving student.

Matthew provides music ministry for St. Anthony’s of Padua church in Fresno on Saturday evening, as well as churches within the Good Shepherd Parish of Visalia each Sunday. He is encouraged every week by the kindness shown to all the musicians, and is thankful for the privilege of his role in facilitating worship.

The Cabaret will take place on September 7th at 6:00 pm. Tickets are available in the church office or after church on Sunday!

Food for Thought: Notes from our More Month than Money Pantry

From Randy Oftedal, Big Red Pantry Chairperson
Jesus never said it would be easy. In fact, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” 
We are getting responses from members to help us build a Big Red Pantry to serve the needy among us. As a result of these responses, we are in the process of forming a Pantry Committee. We welcome any and all who want to join us. We will begin holding meetings in the near future to decide what direction we want to go regarding the role and purpose of our Big Red Pantry.
Many great things are taking place already at the More Month Than Money Pantry. Because of your caring contributions thus far, we have outgrown our little pantry closet.
This week the pantry moved into the extra room inside the church office. This will allow the pantry to be open all week during church office hours. In addition,we had a generous donation from the Krenz Family. We no longer need the “second shelf” in the kitchen. Thank you Tom and Michelle for the refrigerator! Herb Lilly and I picked it up and delivered it to our new pantry location. Thank you Herb for your continued help and support. I want to send a heartfelt thank you to Michelle Krenz for baking bread for our pantry guests. 
As always, thank you.
Randy Oftedal
Pantry donations can be dropped off at the church office any time during office hours, Monday-Friday, 10am-3pm.