A warm feeling on a frosty February morning… ? Betsy Timm, Communications
Director, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Santa Rosa
It was cold, and kids wearing bulky jackets piled into cars and buses for another school day. Nearby, half-dozen women with bags were waiting. Next door, a few couples were sharing a laugh over a cup of coffee. This was a neighborhood getting ready to start the day. However, it was a very unique neighborhood at the thcorner of A and 7 Street in Santa Rosa – the people, the children were starting
their day from their current home at Catholic Charities Family Support Center, the shelter for families who happen to be homeless.
I was there to ride along with our food to deliver to rural areas. As I left the corner riding high in the Rural Food Project (RFP) truck piloted by Bob T, everyone looked like neighbors from my own neighborhood. Only the surrounding environment was different, with the shelter and people in food lines, people waiting for help.
We snaked through town and drove through the rolling, west county hills, frost sparking off the wires in the vineyards, absent of workers who would soon prune and tame spring growth to yield Sonoma County’s number one ag crop, grapes. We
were on our way to the first of three stops to provide much needed food to seasonal workers in Graton, now out of work.
Bob, who is a master shopper, packer, driver and distributer of food in rural locations, used to manage a small grocery and gas station. “I like it,” he said
of his new line of work. “It feels good. People are very thankful.”
Bob is greeted warmly by the volunteer organizer and workers who know the routine. They immediately begin to pass out cookies, potatoes, fresh pears, canned lemonade…Bob mentions that beans and rice are preferable, but the cost, even
purchased from the food bank, has gone from $12 to $18 a case. These conscientious local volunteers have potatoes left from last week, and they put two huge bags back into the truck for others along the way who may have a greater need. Everyone waves goodbye and shouts “gracias” and “thank you” as we pull out. I could feel their warmth, a great feeling.
Next stop is an elementary school nearby, where school children and their moms pass a group of women waiting for us. As Bob unloads, more cross the street and walk over, swelling the group from a dozen to over 30. Bob pulls out racks of bread along with cases of cookies and other items. He pushes cases of fruit and potatoes to the opening of the truck. Slowly the group mobilizes, and everyone is friendly, passing food to each other. Bob looks out, scratches his head, and comes out with more fruit. “Next Tuesday!” he shouts, and it ripples through the crowd. Happy chatter, everyone has about two full bags. As he packs up, a woman comes back and politely asks, “Sir, may I have one more bag of oranges?” As we
leave, Bob says, “That was a lot of people! We usually have about 20!”
On to Fulton a labor site and we see a small crowd quietly milling around, hoping for work. A queue of 35 men quickly forms; several jump up to help. The volunteer organizer, Oscar, is commanding, friendly, bi-lingual, and converses about the financial challenges the site and the workers face. A young man thanks me, us, Catholic Charities, for the food distribution, mentioning that he had only worked
12/17/2010 by Betsy Timm
once last month. Then he smiled and said, “I hope it will be better this month.” As we leave, Bob says that the left-over potatoes from Graton came in handy here – “I thought I was going to have to go back to the food bank before we
came here, but those extra potatoes helped out.”
As we pulled out, everyone waved again. All these sites were full of polite, thankful people. Bob was right, it did feel good. But so many people in great need – happy and hopeful?! This must be the human spirit at its best.
12/17/2010 by Betsy Timm