MORRO BAY —A community comes together in times of adversity. You hear this all the time when a disaster occurs. It is no less true when an aspect of life turns sour and some find themselves without resources. This is what occurred a little over six years ago when the outcome of the economic turndown left many people without a home.
If you have no place to live chances are you have limited to no access for a good hot meal. That’s where the Food Group, a subcommittee of the Estero Bay Alliance for Care, came into play. This coalition of people began tackling this problem and served their first meal to eight people at the Veterans Hall in Morro Bay on Jan. 6, 2014. Those eight people served have now grown at times to a total of 129 people being served.
“Some of our people are homeless,” Co-coordinator Linda Fidell said, “and some have some sort of shelter but cannot afford food.” Fidell works closely with co-coordinator Nancy Castle and all the groups that cook and bring the meals.
They are called Community Dinners and occur every Monday evening at 5 p.m. and not just for the homeless but for anyone who wants a hot meal. Fidell says that approximately 30% to 35% of those served are currently houseless while others fall into the category of the working poor and as she says, “some are simply lonely” and come to meet up with friends.
The Monday night dinners have never had an incident requiring help from the police except for once when someone fell ill. It appears that those attending tend to police themselves and literally uninvite anyone who appears to be starting trouble.
Morro Bay Resource Connection Coordinator Sharon O’Leary always attends and makes sure that anyone needing information for securing help gets the Resource List. This list is also available at the Resource Office located in the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce building.
Seven different groups are involved purchasing and preparing food and bringing it to the Vet’s Hall and serving it. Those groups are The Morro Bay Lions Club, Saint Timothy Catholic Church, Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, The Estero Bay Methodist Church, Central Coast Circle of Friends, Morro Bay Quota Club, and North Morro Church. Others that also furnish food are Rock Harbor Church, the 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America, the Grange, Dockside Restaurant, Giovanni’s Restaurant, and The Great American Fish Company Restaurant. At times the entree is prepared using meat from animals from the Fair that the Food Bank supplies. To date, the Food Group has served a total of 19,360 guests and now are serving 80 to 100 guests each night.
Businesses that also help are Sun and Buns Bakery which supplies four dozen freshly baked cookies, Rock Espresso Bar supplies two carafes of freshly perked coffee, On the Beach Bed and Breakfast in Cayucos brings freshly baked items not used over the weekend, and Grocery Outlet of Los Osos gives food items that are just outdated. The City of Morro Bay waives rental fees for use of the Vet’s Hall and Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church supplies liability insurance.
Many food items such as canned goods, dry goods, dairy products, breads and fruits are put out on a separate table for folks to take with them. One woman makes an assortment of sandwiches for people to take home. Clothing, shoes, and toiletry items are donated and placed out on a table for those in need to take.
Loyal helpers Jane Butler, Maddy Strauss, Craig Gossard, Jean Radin, Keith O’Dell, Cal and Char Nishinaka, Nancy Sands, Judy Teele, Donna Dawson, Jan Micheletti, Karen Oothoudt, and Jan Evendren among others assist with set-up and clean-up. “These dinners have wide and deep community support,” Fidell said.