Today was such a wonderful day. By the time we unloaded all the gift bags, food, produce, and set up the tables, we had over 100 people waiting in line. We served our usual rice and beans but luckily made double the usual quantity. We had nothing left by the end of the hour! Folks had come from all around the neighborhood to enjoy our hot meal and receive our holiday gift bag. This is FOG’s second year distributing holiday bags filled with some essentials (toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, soap, razors, shaving cream, hand lotion, etc.) as well as pairs of socks, gloves, and warm scarves! Individually wrapped bags of candy were tied with ribbons and given out. For the children we added new toys, stuffed animals, fun socks, and cookies. Some even received a jar of peanut butter and a box of cereal.
Along with these gift bags for both males and females, we had food bags loaded with canned items from the Alameda County Community Food Bank. Folks received items varying from canned tomatoes to canned tuna fish, pasta, olives, cans of soup, bags of rice, and jars of marmalade. We gave out fresh produce and fresh loaves of bread to as many as we could.
Children and adults were able to pick a new book donated by A Great Good Place for Books. The generous owner, Kathleen Caldwell, of this bookstore in Montclair promised to donate to FOG an indefinite number of books to encourage reading and literary skills. She prides herself in having the community involved and having her store a community landmark. The stacks of books for all ages were the first items to go!
Our volunteers worked hard collecting the items from all the various merchants. These donations had to be sorted and distributed into 125 individual bags and then transported to the feeding site! Every year the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse gives FOG bags and gift items for our holiday event. As well, they included a colorful bandana which we tied to the handles to make a festive-looking tote. This year Whole Foods Oakland came to the rescue and offered us 125 additional holiday tote bags to fill in the gap. We had 100s of gloves and socks donated by the owner of Ici, Ice Cream Shop on College Avenue, Oakland, and San Lorenzo Community Church (UCC) in San Lorenzo, CA. We distributed them amongst the bags. As well, we had hand-made scarves and hats donated by individuals. Everyone was able to receive a bag and more!
FOG made sure that all our guests were made to feel special at this time of year. Many said ‘thank you’ and were overwhelmed that our volunteers had gone to such trouble for folks they didn’t really know. Our ‘gifting’ was the greatest gift of all.
An onlooker commented that even though his day had started out badly, he felt better because he had witnessed ‘goodness’ in the world. It was a wonderful day for all of us.