More than forty years ago, Anne and Al Issacs opened the food pantry at Calvary Church in Santa Cruz, distributing bags of groceries and fresh produce to needy and/or homeless Santa Cruz families and individuals. Although they have since retired, a new generation of community volunteers keeps the pantry up and running.
The folks at Calvary treat their hungry clients with a friendly and welcoming hand, providing coffee to people waiting on line. Recently, the food distributions, which take place twice a month, have served from 60-90 families per month, with 80-150 family members. Many people arrive early to enjoy the coffee and companionship. The food distributions provide a sense of community for people going through tough times. “People come and go,” says Dave, a longtime volunteer at the pantry. “We have one client that works in construction. When he has work we don’t see him, when there is no work he comes to get food.”
As people arrive at the pantry, they are given a number and their name, zip code and number of family members is recorded in a book. When the pantry opens, people line up according to number. They can choose whatever produce they want; on the day we visited there were carrots, peppers, cut up watermelon, apples and more. Once they’ve chosen their produce, they can take one of the pre-packed bags of non-perishable food. Since many of the people the pantry serves are homeless or do not have access to kitchen facilities, having ready-to-eat food items is important.
Alex has volunteered at the Calvary pantry for seven years. He still picks up food but is doing much better now than when he first showed up. “I started coming here when I was homeless,” he says. “They saved my life. I owe my life to these people for giving me food.” Alex gives any extra food he has to the Sober Living Environment, which he also credits with helping him turn his life around.
The food distributed at Calvary comes primarily from Second Harvest; in fact, Calvary was one of Second Harvest’s first member agencies, signing on in 1984. Volunteers visit the warehouse to choose fresh produce. Second Harvest delivers the non-perishable items, which can be ordered online. Volunteers sort and bag up the staple foods, which include items such as canned vegetables, cereal and peanut butter. Calvary distributes approximately 50,000 pounds of food annually.
The food pantry at Calvary is a model of efficiency, as are other outreach programs at the church. Clothes Closet operates in conjunction with the food pantry and there is a Coffee House for youth that includes a dinner every Monday evening.
Thanks to everyone at Calvary for their hard work and dedication. They are really making a difference in our community.