It was an assembly-line style production, with several volunteers from Escalon serving up lunch to fire evacuees.
The effort was on Sunday afternoon at the Holiday Inn Express of Oakdale, which is housing several families that have been evacuated from their Groveland and Pine Mountain Lake area homes as a result of the Moc fire. At nearly 3,000 acres the fire was at about 20 percent containment as of press time.
“We did dinner last night and lunch today,” Debbie Murken of Escalon explained Sunday of helping out with meals.
She noted that there was no specific group in Escalon that took on the task, “just people” and they were happy to come help out in any way they could.
Sunday’s lunch – provided for about 50 families – included pulled chicken sandwiches, green beans, coleslaw, potato chips and cupcakes.
Working with Murken to serve up the food were the husband and wife team of David and Robin Jones along with Kim Robinson.
Among the recipients of their help was Maryse Gascard, a resident of Pine Mountain Lake, who evacuated her home last Thursday.
“We managed to find our way here,” she said of landing in Oakdale.
Many of the rooms at the Holiday Inn Express are now filled with fire evacuees and, once a call went out for assistance, donations of all kinds poured in.
For Gascard, seeing a dinner buffet put on for them shortly after their arrival was just the first of many surprises.
“I started crying when I first saw it, I was teary eyed, it was overwhelming,” she said of the community’s generosity.
Evacuees have been provided with food since their unexpected stay in the area, teams of volunteers preparing and serving.
“With everything that has been going on, there’s still good people out there,” Gascard said.
She will be in the area, with her cat, until it is safe to return to her home.
There is a spot in the lobby where updates are posted on the Moc fire, so residents can try to keep tabs on what is happening in their area.
Oakdale resident Jo Harris was among those working to collect donations and there has been plenty of them coming in, allowing for the purchase of clothing and essential supplies, while other people have brought food or items ranging from puzzle books to pet food. There have also been donations made that will go to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora, which is also an evacuation site, and still other items will be sent to firefighters.
Front desk clerk Monique Poe at the Holiday Inn Express said when she realized they were getting many fire evacuees, she posted on Facebook that they were looking for help with meal preparation and said the response was immediate.
“I had so many people say ‘let me help’ – people are paying for rooms, people are sending in money via Venmo … it’s truly a beautiful thing to see.”