Food bank thrives, thanks to volunteers

Boxes packed with food are ready for delivery at the Community Food Connection, located behind the church at 14047 Twin Peaks Road.

Food bank thrives, thanks to volunteers

By Tawny McCray

It takes a village of dedicated volunteers to help run a local food bank operating for a dozen years out of a double wide, double long trailer behind Trinity Church.

The Community Food Connection, located behind the church at 14047 Twin Peaks Road, distributes more than six tons of food to more than 350 families each week. Each family gets 40 to 50 pounds of food, including meat, bread, produce, dairy products, canned and dried goods. The food is distributed every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.

The food bank was created in 2007 and is run by Bill Rearick and his wife Kim, and a score of tireless volunteers. Rearick said they work with The San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego to partner with grocery stores including four local Vons stores, three Sprouts stores, two Trader Joe’s stores, two Costco’s, Walmart, Smart & Final, Target and Aldi.
“There is a real need for food in the community,” Rearick said. “Families don’t have enough money to pay all their bills and put food on the table. Kids go to school with empty stomachs, even here in an affluent community like Poway.”

Rearick said the program offers two types of food assistance: the government funded Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) through the San Diego Food Bank, which carries an income requirement; and the pantry, which involves food they get from the grocery stores, and has no requirements for qualifying and is open to the public.

Volunteer Ray Usell has been helping out for 5 ½ years. The 77-year-old offers his services as a driver, picking up several hundred pounds of donated food from the grocery stores. He said oftentimes drivers have to box the food up themselves in banana boxes.

“My car will hold 33 banana boxes, and depending on what’s in them, that can be 1,900 pounds,” he said.

Usell said for the monthly “big truck” delivery provided by EFAP, they receive cases of individual items such as 24 cases of green beans, 24 cases of kidney beans, 24 cases of peaches, etc. – which all must be repackaged. He said on those days, they need extra volunteers to get it all done.

“We all set up in an assembly line and put one of each item into a bag,” he said of the most recent monthly delivery in June. “We did 576 bags yesterday in 2 1/2 hours, because of the volunteers.”

Usell got tearful talking about his fellow volunteers, saying some of them “should be nominated for sainthood.”

They include volunteers like 89-year-old Bob Holland, who has been helping out for three years. He broke his hip in May but was back in June, with walker in hand, ready to serve.

There are volunteers such as the three special needs teenagers from Abraxas High School in Poway who recently volunteered even though they’re on summer break and are not receiving school credit.

There is a volunteer from an organization called Living Independently Is For Everyone, which helps people with developmental disabilities work, live and thrive in their community. Usell said the man’s whole right side of his body is afflicted and yet he works harder than most.  

“His right arm is unusable, it’s always in a distorted position because he can’t control it at all, and even his smile is crooked,” Usell explained, before choking. “But he can do more with his one hand than many, many of the other ones can do with both.”

Rearick said the volunteers “mean everything to us” and they could not continue without them. He said anyone aged 18 and older can volunteer. Those younger than that can also volunteer, with adult supervision.

They especially need drivers, who make a total of 46 pick-ups each week, using their own cars and gas.

Usell also stated that they are in dire need of donations and grants, to fix the roof of their trailer, especially before the next rainy season.

“We are here to help families who are struggling,” Rearick said. “We can supply their food needs so that they can use their income for rent, utilities and other necessities.”

To volunteer, send an email to tcfconnection@gmail.com.

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