On Sunday afternoons you'll find the doors open at a rustic shed under the redwoods at the edge of the parking lot of Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in La Honda. From this unimposing building, between noon and 2 PM, members of St. Vincent de Paul distribute to our local community, food supplied by Second Harvest.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a worldwide group of lay Catholics who serve their local communities on a person-to-person level, helping anyone in need, maintaining confidence and dignity. Second Harvest is the largest local food bank serving Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Second Harvest works with local organizations that can distribute the food to the people who are in need. The small church community of Our Lady of Refuge originally tried starting their own St. Vincent de Paul conference (as the local groups are called), but found that there weren't enough people to hold the required officers positions. Fortunately the parish church, Our Lady of the Pillar in Half Moon Bay, has a very active and supportive St. Vincent de Paul conference. Partnering, they hope to get food to La Honda residents.
The La Honda pantry distributes grocery bags of non perishables like rice, beans, cereal, canned goods as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, protein items such as fresh eggs, frozen ground turkey or chicken, and occasionally, exotic items like dragon-fruit-flavored Pepsi Cola.
They also have had sheets and towels donated by local large chain stores. There is no charge for anything. Second Harvest requires a name and address so that they know the food has been given to a real person, but this information is never entered into any database or put on any list.
Deacon John McGhee is always looking for a way to help the community. "If there are people who need help, we want to be there," he says. In an area like La Honda, with no regular public transportation and limited shopping opportunity, it's important to have access to basic foods, but it isn't easy to organize a program with potential volunteers spread out as widely as the people they want to serve.
Our Lady of Refuge is what is known as a mission church--part of the parish of Our Lady of the Pillar in Half Moon Bay, as mentioned above. So La Honda has looked to its sister organization in Half Moon Bay for help. St. Vincent de Paul volunteers at Our Lady of the Pillar in Half Moon Bay take delivery of the Second Harvest items and bag them up for La Honda. A La Honda volunteer with a large enough vehicle then picks up the bags (and boxes of additional items) and delivers to the pantry in La Honda. Volunteers also handle the Sunday distribution. This takes some amount of coordination.
Shella Bordi has been instrumental in scheduling the Sunday workers who are there from noon until 2 PM. She has also been scheduling the food pick-up from Half Moon Bay, often doing it herself because a truck-size vehicle is needed. She is grateful to "have access to resources in the Half Moon Bay St. Vincent de Paul" since they have, she adds, "the ability to supply the the food pantry as well as interface with the community for other needs. Because our goal is to reach out to people in any capacity that we can." By partnering with the larger St. Vincent de Paul at Our Lady of the Pillar, the food pantry in La Honda can also expand simply by requesting more bags of food as the need arises.
Spring will bring changes to the look of the pantry: new signs on the outside, new flooring and paint on the inside. The goal is to be there every Sunday so that the people who count on them know that they can get the help they need.
For those who can't get to the pantry or need other assistance, St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo County has a hotline phone number. Usually a home visit will be required for these other services, but this will be carried out by someone from Half Moon Bay and one of the local La Honda members of St. Vincent de Paul. The number is 650-343-4403.
Other service besides food can include financial help for utilities and rent, referal to shelters for the homeless or abused, job training or service to anyone in need.
La Honda pantry hours are every Sunday, noon to 2 PM.