A Center for Hope: The Grange Hall in Atascadero

By Luise Gleason, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Every first Wednesday of the month, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., the Grange Hall in Atascadero, which is mostly a place for dancing sessions, is used for another purpose: to support those in need with healthy, nutritious food. Volunteers divide the available food items into individual boxes so it is easier for participants to receive their food – an action that inspired other food distribution sites to do the same. In addition to setting up tables and sorting the food that arrives in a Food Bank Coalition truck earlier in the morning, volunteers also deliver about half of the 60 food boxes to people who are not able to make their way to the Grange Hall.

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Volunteer Duane helps with setting up tables, preparing food boxes and delivering them to the homes of people who cannot make it to the food distribution.

One of the helpers that take care of these home deliveries is Blaze. He comes every month because he sees the need in the community and wants to do whatever he can to help out. As a volunteer and recipient, he is happy whenever he can receive a food box himself, but often decides to give his share to someone else who needs it more than him.

Two other volunteers, Bobbie and Duane, also belong to the giving and receiving end of the table. The couple lives in a mobile home park and is trying to get by on social security, but it is often not enough to cover all of their expenses. Without the food from the Food Bank Coalition, they wouldn’t have enough to eat. Even when Bobbie was still working as a waitress, they didn’t have much to get by. Sometimes, her paychecks came out to zero after insurance payments were taken out. Both of them made it their mission to volunteer after seeing how much it helped others in their family. Bobbie welcomes individuals as they walk in and assists them with signing in. Duane, who also works at a nearby food pantry during the week, helps with carrying the food boxes to people’s cars.

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Volunteer Bobbie greets everyone who walks in to receive food with a welcoming smile and assists with signing in.

Sometimes, recipients also turn into donors or vice versa. One man that stopped by to pick up a share explained that this is his very first time accepting help after donating to the Food Bank Coalition for many years. His name is Brad Thompson and he is 62 years old. Over the last few years, his income as an electrical contractor has dramatically dropped. He has now started to receive social security which, in his own words, “changed everything.”

William*, another visitor, revealed that he got really sick in March and didn’t have any income since. Last month, he survived by visiting three different food distribution sites. At first he felt embarrassed to be needing help, but is now getting used to it. William also noted how thankful he is that his landlord understands the dire condition of his situation because otherwise he would be homeless by now.

Recipient Rebecca is also at risk of facing homelessness. She was employed as a special education teacher but is now unable to work after incurring a brain injury. Monthly child support in the amount of $300 is the only income right now for Rebecca and her 16 year old daughter. Just like Brad, this is Rebecca’s very first time at a food distribution. The food is needed support for them, but Rebecca doesn’t know how they’ll pay their rent at the end of the month. For now, she is fighting to get worker’s compensation.

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Blaze is loading Rebecca’s share into her car.

Blaze, Bobbie, Duane, Brad, William and Rebecca belong to the 30,000 individuals that the Food Bank Coalition serves on a monthly basis. Their unique stories not only provide examples of the struggles that we all go through as human beings, but they also remind us that each one of us can, at some point on our life, experience a situation that requires help from the community in which we live.

*name changed for privacy