Pescadero Food Bank Needed More Since Lidia

The good news is that donations have also increased
BY: ANDREW STACK

In the nearly two months since Tropical Storm Lidia hit, Larry Phoenix has been scrambling to help people living in the barrios around Pescadero.

“They were devastated,” he says. “The roads to the barrios were impassable. We had to wait about a week before we could get in to deliver food.”

larryphoenix.JPGLarry and Padre Alonzo Choza are the backbone of the Sacred Heart Food Bank in Pescadero. “The Padre loads up food in his car and off into the hills he goes,” says Larry. Padre Alonzo delivers bags of groceries, and often cooks meals for those who are in the most need.

“Many people who we help are very old and sick, in bed,” he says.

Larry is the food bank’s primary backer, but he’s only one of a dozen people working to keep it going. He started it with the intent of helping the school children of Pescadero. A former green beret who served in Vietnam, he’s seen a lot of suffering, but says he sees no need for it to continue in a community that has so much to offer.

Whether delivering food, clothing or meals on wheels, the food bank is a godsend for many residents. The food bank serves anyone in need, not just parishioners of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, which it’s based out of. The food bank started with one family and now regularly serves 60 families a month (although after Lidia, that number has gone up to 80 families). Each bag of food given out by the food pantry includes: flour, sugar, pasta, rice, beans, vegetable oil, condensed milk, canned fruit, canned vegetables, tomato sauce, canned tuna, tooth paste and laundry soap. Baby food and dog food are also given to families who need it.

Groceries are organized and delivered once a month. Larry and Padre Alonzo buy groceries on a Saturday and deliver them the following Tuesday. There is never a surplus. They use all funds collected to buy the maximum amount of groceries possible.

The number of families the food bank can help grows as contributions grow. In the past month, Larry has held three fundraisers at local establishments - Todos Santos Brewing and Chill N’ Grill in Todos Santos and The Oasis in Pescadero - to bring in more gringo money. The food bank averages about $370 USD a month in donations but, after the recent fundraisers, donations increased dramatically. Larry is happy that donations have nearly doubled, but says there’s still a lot of hunger in the barrios. So, he’s turned to the internet to tap into state-side contributors. He started advertising on Facebook via the Todos Santos Newsfeed and the Baja Western Onion. From those advertisements, he’s had money wired in from the States that gave the food bank another couple hundred bucks.

Larry and Padre Alonzo don’t waste a moment making sure funds are converted into real food because, as they say, “Those in need must eat now.”

The food bank relies heavily on word of mouth from Sacred Heart parishioners to find families in need. Once contact is made, the ladies of the church go to work to make sure the request is legitimate. Since many have lost their homes, the women visit families in person, wherever they may be living. They also cook meals to deliver to them.

For their part, the ladies of Sacred Heart, Lupita Salvatiera and Marilena Espinoza, say they love working for their community and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “This is God’s work,” they say.

If you’d like to make a donation to the food bank, you can drop off non-perishable food or clothing in person at Sacred Heart Catholic Church to the community center behind the church. Sacred Heart is known as the church on the hill. If you’d prefer to donate money, you can email Larry at phnix52@gmail.com. Or email him to ask precisely which hill is the church on.