Gina Valadez is the director and founder of Bread of Life — a San Joaquin County food program.
“I printed some flyers early in the morning, passed them around the neighborhood letting people know that we were giving away groceries,” Valadez shared her duties during the morning when Bread of Life started in Stockton back in 2008. “The first time we open our doors, we had 60 people outside our church.”
In a short four years Bread of Life grew from serving 60 people to an average of 11,000 families in 2010. Valadez is now continuing the mission of Bread of Life in other locations throughout the San Joaquin County – in Lodi, Tracy and Manteca.
“I never imagined that it will grow this large, we just keep giving and the supplies keep coming.”
Every third Saturday of the month hundreds and hundreds of families’ line-up outside the doors of Life Song Church — the homes of Bread of Life — some wait as early as midnight in order to receive a food basket the next morning.
Helping and feeding the hungry is nothing new to Valadez – as she dedicates much of her time throughout the years to help others. “I started 20 years ago serving at the Salvation Army and going to the parks feeding the homeless, and in downtown Stockton, passing out sandwiches to prostitutes and drug addicts.”
“You learn to be very giving; it is all about loving and being kind, treating people with respect and dignity.”
Today, Valadez hopes to fine tune the aid they provide, “I hope that we are able to continue to serve people, I hope to bring more resources… Employment, housing and education information … I hope to see the number of people in line decrease; I don’t want to be this mega huge food pantry that will be defeat the purpose.”
The growth of Bread of Life is attributed to Valadez and her team of volunteers — nearly 200 volunteers is needed on a Saturday morning to distribute the food.
Bread of Life mainly helps working families that do not have enough to make ends meet, “the face of hunger could be your next door neighbor,” Valadez highlighted that, “hunger is everywhere.”
If you wish to donate or volunteer at Bread of Life, please call LifeSong Church at (209) 943-6604.