The parking lot was packed and the Gene Bianchi Community Center in Oakdale was filled with guests earlier this month for the annual fundraiser hosted by the Friends of the NRA. There were over 300 guests in attendance that came from around the area, including those from Riverbank, Escalon, Manteca, Sonora, Modesto, Waterford and Oakdale.
The festivities began with a welcome from NRA Field Representative Cole Beverly, who was also the master of ceremonies for the event. He recognized veterans and first responders that were in the crowd which were applauded. Beverly also added that it is important to build the program to protect our Second Amendment right as well as preserving that right for the generations to come.
The Oakdale Friends of the NRA committee include Chairman Olympia Francis-Mandel, Vice Chairman Frances Francis, Treasurer Tim Mandel, and Secretary Mark Garrett. They are a non-profit organization. The Mandels have been organizing the annual dinner for the past three years and stated that attendance has increased each year.
“It was bigger and better than in years past,” stated Olympia. “It gets bigger and better every year. Our goal is always to raise more funds than we raised the previous year which we did and our goal is always to get more people in the building, which we did.”
The $60 dinner ticket included a raffle ticket for the door prize, dinner, live auction, silent auction, and eight different games. The public is invited to attend and guests do not have to be an NRA member. For the third year in a row, L and M Blodgett Catering out of Escalon catered the dinner and served up tri-tip, chicken, potatoes, salad, and rolls. Dessert included a variety of cupcakes which were donated by committee member Robin Giuntoli from Escalon. There were several items raffled off including a safe with guns and each white raffle ticket this year gave people a chance to win a variety of guns like a .38 Smith and Wesson, Browning Buckmark, and Remington model 870 Shotgun.
Among the volunteers were the Escalon Explorers that were on hand to help out wherever they were needed. They are also eligible for a grant for training and gear.
The Friends of the NRA is a nationwide program that was created in 1992. There are dinners being held throughout the states to raise funds. The local event was sold out a week prior to the night of the dinner and they raised over $119,000. Some of the funds raised will go to support youth shooting sports – such as trap teams –and promote educational efforts, including teaching women how to shoot.
“A big thank you from the Oakdale Friends of the NRA committee to everybody that came to the dinner,” said Tim. “We look forward to seeing them next year.”