It’s hard to believe that Grey Bears began with two UCSC students. It was 1973 when both of these students, Kristina Mailliard and her boyfriend Gary Denny, decided to take in food from local farmers and gardens and share it with the elderly. Both were surprised at the undernourishment of the poor/low-income elderly, knowing that, they continued with the organization.
In 1976 Grey Bears had established itself as a non-profit organization under 501©3. Throughout Santa Cruz county Grey Bears have delivered bags of fresh produce and healthy staples to 4,500 seniors each week through the Brown Bag Program. In 1985 Grey Bears purchased the 1st mid-county lot at 2710 chanticleer Ave, SC where they currently are today.
Visiting this organization, one would be amazed at the dedication and coordination of the group of volunteers that help create the many bags that feed the elderly. David Fuentez, the Brown Bag Program Coordinator, is very proud in having such hard and fast working volunteers; “We have an amazing community of volunteers and many have become my personal friends. In my department alone we have 25 plus volunteers who are here Monday – Wednesday helping with quality control processing. On Thursday and Friday you’ll find over 65 volunteers helping pack our bags for distribution along with 90 more volunteer drivers on those days delivering the bags for distribution. Most of our volunteers have been with Grey Bears for many years and that kind of dedication speaks for itself and makes me proud to be part of the Grey Bears”- David Fuentez. David is 10 months into his third year at Grey Bears. If you ask him what he does at Grey Bears he would reply: “I help grocery shop for 4500 weekly to ensure our membership receives the most nutritious bag we can provide.” He knows that it’s because of these volunteers that Grey Bears have the success they are known for. Their establishment can be seen to dedicate itself around the slogan “nothing goes to waste”. For the spoils they have, there are six large compost tubs. For the recycling they even operate two recycling centers, one at the Chanticleer Recycling Center and the other at the Buena Vista Landfill Recycling Center. David would tell you that Grey Bears also offers classes such as computers and tech support, Spanish, yoga, cooking and Taiko drumming and host several events during the year that helps keep seniors socially active in our community. It’s a BIG organization that does A LOT of things. For all the members Grey Bears serve, low-income seniors get fresh food and healthy food to supply their days.
This year Grey Bears will have delivered 2.5 million pounds of food to their 4,500 members. Grey Bears has also been named 2015 organization of the year by Aptos chamber of commerce and community. With the help of 500 hardworking volunteers who deliver 80,000 hours of service each year they hold true to their vision of all seniors living healthy lives. Grey Bears have improved the health and wellbeing of seniors through all the hard work they accomplish. No doubt Kristina and Gary (founders) are very proud of what Grey Bears is accomplishing.
Second Harvest Food Bank has worked with David Fuentez/Grey Bears for years and we are proud to have them as a partnered Agency. With their help, and the help of the many other Agencies, we may soon make sure that no one goes hunger whether they be young children, middle-aged, or elderly seniors.