With large indoor family gatherings frowned upon because of the pandemic, Faith Food Fridays expects even greater demand with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner.
That means more food needed. And funding. And the annual Times-Herald Community Christmas Card is a welcomed safety net, said Mary Ann Buggs, overseeing the Friday, Tuesday and now Sunday program with her husband, Benjamin.
The Community Card, said Mary Ann, “has made the difference from us struggling to provide food for those who need it week to week to being able to operate smoothly and efficiently. Now, we’re not scrambling every month to make sure we have enough monetary donations so we can purchase those foods we need. We can actually spend time planning and organizing for long-term success.”
Including multiple food pick-ups every day, Faith Food Fridays operates seven days a week “so being able to do that while managing special projects such as the installation of our new walk-in fridge and freezer last year or the new fence construction this year wouldn’t be possible without the Christmas Card gift,” Buggs said.
In its 17th year, the Community Christmas Card benefits Faith Food Fridays, the Sparrow Project, and the Christian Help Center. Last year, nearly $30,000 was distributed.
This year’s revenue got a big jump, with $5,269.99 carried over from 2019 because of donations that missed the deadline. A handful of donations have already arrived for 2020, including $1,000 from Tim Hiemstra of Napa River Realty.
“Such amazingly generous donations like Mr. Hiemstra’s serve as the lifeblood to hunger-fighting organizations by providing direct community-to-community assistance,” Buggs said. “This puts food on the tables of families who daily struggle to survive. We are so very humbled by this show of empathy and compassion to our neighbors in need.”
Faith Food Fridays started out Fridays only nine years ago. Tuesdays were added five years ago and this October, a drive-thru-only distribution was added because of COVID-19.
In serving 400 to 500 households a week, roughly 2,000 individuals, the nonprofit at 826 Solano Ave. sticks to its mission statement: “To help our Vallejo area neighbors in need with free boxes of food, groceries and other necessities, along with resource referrals and positive encouragement.”
“We’re now seeing people who have never had to visit a free food pantry,” Buggs said. “Those who are now unemployed or underemployed due to the pandemic and who are so very grateful for the help and who talk to us about their lives. They also talk about how they want to help us. It’s very humbling. But when you see your community hurting and you, in some small way, be a support to them … it’s hard to put into words.”
Beyond the drive-thru food service Sunday, COVID-19 caused Faith Food Fridays to move distribution from indoors to outdoors back in March, said Buggs. Social distancing began and masks were mandatory.
“We struggled a bit in the beginning when the broken food chain erased our donations and 75 percent of our volunteers wisely stayed home for safety — but we found a way to be efficient and never had to close, and even increased our services,” Buggs said, gearing up for the Nov. 18 Thanksgiving Dinner Box, with the Christmas Dinner Box and toy giveaway Dec. 20.
Though the process works, Food Faith Fridays doesn’t sit still, says Buggs.
“We have lots of ideas on how we can serve this city even better and in more ways,” she said. “The homeless problem continues to be an issue and we look forward to the City of Vallejo addressing that with compassion and expertise. But even more importantly, we know that racial injustice and privilege are a the root of economic injustice -— which is at the root of hunger. We will continue to advocate that these issues are addressed both locally and nationally and we’re ready — eager even — to assist as needed.”
For more, visit faithfoodfridays.com. To donate to the Community Christmas Card:
To contribute online, visit solanocf.org and click on Vallejo Times-Herald Community Christmas Card Fund. To pay by check, make it out to Solano Community Foundation and send to Doreen Boggs, Times-Herald, 425 Virginia St., Ste. A, Vallejo, 94590. All donors and donations will be published unless anonymity requested.
For information, call Richard Freedman, (707) 553-6820 or email email@example.com.