Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe in San Jose is not your typical food distribution site: blessings offered in the pantry, an entire site run by volunteers, and a hymn sung to all those waiting in line at the beginning of each distribution. Jimmy Ancira, the site coordinator, has been leading the charge of serving food to those in need for decades. His all-volunteer program has been operating a weekly pantry since 1982. In 2010, they provided food to an average of nearly 4,000 people each month, almost double the amount they were serving 10 years ago.
The church serves one of the poorest and most ethnically diverse zip codes in Santa Clara County. The infrastructure in East San Jose is closely woven together with faith-based communities as they are trusted leaders in their neighborhoods. "When we asked Jimmy and his volunteers to increase their responsibility beyond the food pantry based on their proximity to these highly under-served areas, they did not hesitate to step up their operations," says Cindy McCown, Senior Director of Programs and Services. As a result, Our Lady of Guadalupe also partners with the Food Bank to operate a weekly Brown Bag program for seniors plus a monthly Produce Mobile distribution.
During a typical distribution, the dedicated volunteers sing a hymn to help keep the atmosphere welcoming and family-oriented. After a prayer in the pantry, clients begin lining up in the courtyard to start the process of getting their food. After receiving their numbered card from one volunteer, they go to a separate window to receive their bag of nutritious items from another smiling volunteer. It's a smooth and efficient system that is both dignified and practical.
The site exemplifies what it takes to make a site run efficiently with limited resources. A second-hand desk is stationed near where clients sign in. The office volunteers sort through note cards and manually add numbers to poster boards because they cannot afford computers. Makeshift carts propped up by scrap wood and duct tape keep the heavy boxes of produce from collapsing. The Food Bank recently gave them a gently used commercial freezer and several stainless steel tables. "We are so grateful for the comprehensive support Second Harvest provides not only with the food itself but also with these other materials that make it possible to get the food out each week," Jimmy said. "It makes such a difference in how we serve our neighbors."