Lending a Hand Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen is one of San Jose’s oldest and most beloved soup kitchen organizations, where anyone who comes through the doors is served a nutritious meal by smiling volunteers, no questions asked. The agency’s guests range from infants to senior citizens, from homeless people to those struggling to make ends meet. Dedicated workers and generous donors—from people who send $5 checks to corporations that award thousands in grants—help keep Loaves & Fishes running. There are several ways to help Loaves & Fishes during the holiday season and all year-round. CASH DONATIONS Loaves & Fishes is a 501c3 nonprofit and is always appreciative of monetary donations to support its mission. You can give online at its website, www.loavesfishes.org, or by sending a check to Loaves & Fishes, Attn: AnnMarie Zimmermann, 777 N. First St., Suite 420, San Jose, 95112. Find out if your company matches employee contributions. IN-KIND DONATIONS Although Loaves & Fishes gets most of its food from Second Harvest Food Bank, it accepts grocery items throughout the year, like canned fruits and vegetables, tuna, milk, fruit juices and spices. Other helpful items include grocery bags, diapers, sleeping bags and blankets, socks, hygiene products and backpacks for adults. Call Loaves & Fishes at 408/998-1500 for drop-off locations and hours. VOLUNTEERING Workers are needed to prep, serve and clean up at meal times, and gardeners are welcome at Father Larry’s Farm. Sign up online at www.loavesfishes.org/volunteering, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408/439-0915. Employees from more than two dozen local companies regularly volunteer, and any business interested in helping is encouraged to email or phone for more information. VOLUNTEER MATCHING GIFTS Some companies will give a monetary donation based on the number of hours employees volunteer at Loaves & Fishes. Check with your human resources or corporate social responsibility department. n December 2014/January 2015 51 and she realized that spending time on local nonprofit boards “wasn’t scratching that itch I had to help,” she says. When Agilent announced in late 2013 it Iwas splitting and downsizing executives, Zimmermann took the opportunity to make a huge change. “I was ready to try something different.” t didn’t take long for something different to come along. Last winter, instead of going to work in corporate offices, Zimmermann found herself knee-deep in broccoli at Father Larry’s Farm, a garden that Loaves & Fishes operates on a third of an acre at the back of the Goodwill parking lot on North Seventh Street. She picked the vegetable until her legs were sore, she says, working with the volunteers who launched the garden a year before. The physical labor was something of a test suggested by DiNapoli, who was then chair of the agency’s executive search committee. The word back from the volunteers was that Zimmermann would be “wonderful” in the top spot, and Zimmermann herself told him she was more committed than ever to joining Loaves & Fishes. She was hired as executive director in March. Father Larry’s Farm, named for Father Larry Largente, one of the founders of Loaves & Fishes in 1980, provides thousands of pounds of vegetables yearround for meals the agency serves. It’s also a place for partnership with the Downtown Streets Team, which provides workers to augment the volunteer garden force. The farm is doing so well, Zimmermann says her agency is exploring the idea of selling produce to the public as part of a self-sufficiency plan. Other changes ahead include forging more partnerships and expanding services. Loaves & Fishes also is trying new programs, such as an Android app to help guests find resources and inviting other agencies and corporations to provide information and services during meal times. It’s all part of the plan to create a social enterprise that will ultimately serve more people and perhaps make a significant dent in the big, hairy problem of hunger. To try to tackle the complex issue is overwhelming, Zimmerman says, but she’s focusing on what she can change. “I know I can’t solve this giant and enormous problem, and there are people way smarter than me working on it, but it feels good to me to be able to ease the burden a little bit,” she explains. Talking about the guests she interacts with at meal times gives her “goose bumps,” and she recalls one incident when she asked a smiling woman in the dining room how she was doing. ‘“I’m so good, I’m so blessed. I got a job today,’” the woman told Zimmermann, who rejoiced with her while confirming the importance of her work. “I know this makes a difference to people’s daily lives,” she says. “I know it does.” Produce grown in Father Larry's Farm, the Loaves & Fishes garden. COURTESY OF LOAVES & FISHES (2) Volunteers from Cisco don aprons and help out at Eastside Neighborhood Center.
South Bay Accent - Dec 2014/Jan 2015
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