Category Archives: Agency Spotlight

Casa de la Cultura

Casa de la Cultura Spotlight

Health care clinic, education hub, counseling provider, and food pantry, Casa de la Cultura is a multifaceted gem in the small community of Pajaro. The backbone of Casa de la Cultura is Sistersisterrosadolores Rosa Dolores.

In 1966 Sister Dolores felt called by the Religious Order of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and “educates for life” as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. In a small room behind the Assumption Church in Pajaro, Sister Dolores organized a place  where the women of the community met 2-3 times a week to learn how to sew and to talk about the issues of the day. In time, the small organization started to distribute food to the community. After the 1995 Pajaro River flood, Sister Rosa saw an opportunity and moved into her current building at 225 Salinas Road in Pajaro.

Today, this organization serves as a free health clinic on Tuesday nights, focusing on Diabetes Care and offering Acupuncture, Healing Touch, Aromatherapy, and Pastoral Counseling. It collaborates with Monterey County Public health agencies as well as Salud Para La Gente Health Center, operating year-round. Sister Dolores also provides presentations about diabetes to farmworkers. She says, “Prevention and education are the most important things.”

It’s also a place where the community can come together to get food and to take advantage of a variety of empowering classes like Spanish literacy, drivers’ license test prep, music, art, etc. If the members of the community need help, Sister Dolores always lends a hand. Casa de la Cultura Center became a Second Harvest partner agency in 1992.

Olympia Garcia, Sister Dolores’s right hand, comes to Second Harvest each week and jumps straight into her duties and picks out food to distribute at Casa. Sister Dolores is very grateful, thankful, and appreciative of Olympia’s dedication and hard work throughout the years as a faithful volunteer.

Casa de la Cultura Center is a heart that beats for the community, strong and constant. It’s a hospital for the sick, a pantry for the hungry, and a haven for the community. With all these different instruments, Sister Dolores conducts an orchestra of peace in the community where all can arrive and be healed by time, care, music, and compassion.

Watsonville Wetland Watch

watsonvillewetlandwtchlogoAgency Spotlight- Watsonville Wetland Watch

We are going to briefly learn about a program that educates students on the Watsonville Wetlands.

Did you know?

  1. There are over 220 species of birds in Watsonville Wetlands
  2. It’s one of the largest remaining freshwater wetlands in the central coast of California.

Unfortunately, the wetlands of California are having a bit of trouble; 90% of the wetlands in California have been destroyed or degraded. The city of Watsonville and Watsonville Wetland Watch are working to preserve 800 acres of Watsonville’s wetland. And guess what? Watsonville Wetland Watch is a partnering Agency with Second Harvest Food Bank.

We at Second Harvest get to work with Darren Gertler, the Environmental Education Specialist, who’s been working at Watsonville Wetland Watch Since August of 2014. Darren helps teach students at Pajaro Valley High school about the wetland’s wildlife and environment. Asking Darren why the Watsonville Wetland Watch is important to the community, he says: “Our program is important to our community because it is helping to foster a young generation of local teenagers that will grow up with an appreciation and respect for our environment. The more people in Watsonville that appreciate its natural beauty the more of the wetlands will be preserved and restored for many years to come.”

Darren also understands the important of nutrition towards his students. He provides healthy fruits, vegetables, and snack products to his students. Why is healthy food important to him? Asking Darren, he replies: “Nutritious food is important to me because mostdarrenwatsonvillewetlandwatch of my teenagers do not understand the true benefits of eating healthy food. Most of our students aren’t able to provide their own nutritious food. The free and reduced school lunches that most of our students depend on leave some room for improvement in our student’s daily diets.”

Learning how we can help our environment will help ensure a healthy ecosystem. Watsonville Wetlands is the part of Watsonville where we can go and enjoy nature and wildlife. Keeping it maintained will allow us to appreciate its beauty for years to come. Darren and his team do a great job in not just educating their students, but also providing their students with healthy and nutritious food. Second Harvest Food Bank is proud to have Darren Gertler with Watsonville Wetland Watch as a partnering agency.

Agency Spotlight- Janus of Santa Cruz

    Janus of Santa Cruz

Second Harvest Food Bank is proud to work with Janus of Santa Cruz. This organization has been, for 40 years (40-year anniversary this year!), helping people recover from addiction. Janus of SC was founded in 1976 by physician Dr. Robert G. O’Brien. In 1981 Janus became a private non-profit organization that serves over 2,500 clients and families each year. This organization has one mission: to provide supportive, hope-inspiring and successful substance abuse services in a professional and compassionate environment while assisting individuals and families on their journey toward wellness and recovery.

Janus of SC provides A LOT of different programs, co-occurring disorder treatment including:

  • Detoxification
  • In patient/outpatient treatment
  • Perinatal services
  • DUI education
  • Medication assisted treatments
  • Supervise sober living environments

We, at the Foodbank, get to work with Nate Calderon. Nate is the natesmilingatcamerajanusFood Service Coordinator at Janus. Coming this October Nate will celebrate 3 years at Janus of Santa Cruz. He and his staff provide fresh, healthy food for many residents and for the several programs Janus offers. Nate introduces fruits and vegetables as the basic staple in every meal. Whenever Nate arrives he goes straight to work, picking up his order and getting a few things at the distribution center. Nate and his staff understand that Fast Food and unhealthy eating habits are easy to fall into; He works hard to not only provide nutritious meals, but to re-introduce fruits and vegetables as the right and primary choice. “People wouldn’t normally be eating this many fruits and vegetables. We are offering a healthier alternative and promoting good health.” – Nate. Doing this, Nate says he and his staff are “planting the seed”, hoping that whenever residents leave the supervised sober living environments they can take healthy/nutritious food with them rather than falling back into the possible un-healthy habits they arrived in. Second Harvest Food Bank agrees with Nate and his team 100%.

March Agency Spotlight- Jacob’s Heart

jacobs hearttoppic    Imagine yourself standing in the middle of the hospital and the doctor says “Your child has cancer”- it’s a devastating scenario, but sadly happens to many families. Cancer creates an instant impact in a family, it is a shocking discovery to know that your child has cancer. The road to recovery and coping with cancer can be hard, luckily there are places like “Jacob’s Heart” that can help. It provides family-centered care that addresses the emotional, practical and financial struggles for families of children and teens during treatment. Jacob’s Heart has one mission: to provide support to parents and families of children with cancer in Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito and South Santa Clara counties.

As you enter Jacob’s Heart and pass the front desk you’ll notice hundreds of pictures of children they support. It’s a heart-warming entrance that highlights how much Jacob’s Heart cares for families. Throughout the colorful rooms are hardworking volunteers that provide incredible service to helping the families. There are rooms filled with blankets quilted for the families. They have a room brimmed with toys for the young kids. In the heart of this establishment, there is an arts and crafts area; here volunteers create cards and gifts for each of the cancer families. The whole establishment shows how passionate they are in providing all they can for parents and families who have children with cancer.

Jacob’s Heart provides an immense amount of services that are dedicated to helping the families. They provide bilingual counseling, grief support, financial assistance, transportation, and much more. Jacob’s heart even has a pantry run by Janet Krupa who’s worked for Jacob’s Heart for 3 years. Janet serves 65 to 85 families bi-weekly, providing organic produce and a variety of different products. Second Harvest is proud in providing Jacob’s Heart with the food they need for all the families they serve.


December Agency Spotlight: Grey Bears

Grey Bears Spotlightgrey bearspic

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.

Photo by: Lance Linares A large group of volunteers working efficiently to fill bags to be delivered

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.

grey bearspic

October Agency Spotlight- MHCAN

Never believe that a few caring people

cant change the world. For, indeed, that’s

all who ever have.”- Margaret Mead

Did you know?

  • 1 in 100 (2.4 million) American adults live
  • With Schizophrenia.
  • 2.6%(6.1 million) of American adults live with bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9%(16million of American adults live with major depression)
  • 18.1% (42 million) of American adults live with anxiety disorder.

Nearly 1 in 25 adults (approximately 13.6 million) of Americans live with a serious mental illness. You might think that these people get helped, that their lives are spent in the warm, comforted room of their psychiatrists. That’s not necessarily the case. There are those who struggle with a multiple diagnosis or from severe cases of just one. Sometimes these people don’t get the help they need. Their psychiatrists would only prescribe more medication that may cause a whole different problem (which take even more complicated medication to fix it). Many counselors might give up on these complicated cases, and the clients? Well they may repeat the process with another councilor or fall deeper down the rabbit hole, many turn to the streets.

But that’s not where Sarah Leonard is, she’s of the few who have got out of the routine and is helping others get out/off the streets and into helping hands. Her philosophies would tell you that each person recovers differently, day by day and around the community that understands- that’s what MHCAN is (Mental Health Client Action Network). MHCAN was initially begun by PIRC- a radical group of psychiatric survivors called Psychiatric Inmate Rights Collective. MHCAN became an important figure in the community that it was established as an official organization and was given County Mental Health Funding. With the help of The William James Foundation, MHCAN turned into a nonprofit corporation (as of August 11th, 1995).

Today, MHCAN is a home/community that helps those with multiple diagnosis and gives people the loving community that they may not get anywhere else. MHCAN provides:

  • Dual Diagnosis Interventions
  • Dual Diagnosis Detox Recovery Companions
  • Clean and Sober Dual Diagnosis Support by the Hour
  • Early sobriety dual diagnosis support packages
  • Part time (8-12 hours) Daily support
  • FULL time (24hours) dual diagnosis detox recovery companions for withdrawal from heroin, methamphetamine, etc.

Sarah, Elisa, Helen, and Patrick have upheld the responsibility of helping those who struggle with mental disorders and/or addictions. Together they are part of the recovery team that focus solely to the recovering health of the men and women who arrive. This team provides what others don’t- a family that understands what each one of its members are going through. Why? Because each member has gone through something similar.

Over the years mental health issues have risen, but recovery isn’t always easy, especially when cases get more complex or the environment doesn’t offer the support they need. MHCAN teaches that those who have trouble with multiple diagnosis or heavy mental struggles have a chance to recover; One day at a time, in a safe community, and always with others who understand what they’re going through. It welcomes all, gives healthy food, and a great community.

Sarah and Thomas packing the van at the distribution center


Sarah and Thomas have been awesome shoppers at the Distribution Center every Tuesday and Thursday. They are especially known for their ability to pack so much into their black van. It’s always a warm welcome when they come in and the Second Harvest Food Bank is very grateful to have MHCAN as a partnering Agency.

September Agency Spotlight: Calvary Church

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.

Dave & Al picking out fresh produce at Second Harvest

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.