Surplus food reaches families in need

Change a Heart Foundation collaborates with volunteers and regional food providers.
Emery Pura and other volunteers. Photo provided by Dana Aviles.
Emery Pura and other volunteers. Photo provided by Dana Aviles.
Dana Aviles and Jamii Pura. Photo provided by Dana Aviles.
Dana Aviles and Jamii Pura. Photo provided by Dana Aviles.
Duck eggs from Olinday Farms. Photo provided by Dana Aviles.
Duck eggs from Olinday Farms. Photo provided by Dana Aviles.
Produce from Taylor Farms. Photo provided by Dana Aviles.
Produce from Taylor Farms. Photo provided by Dana Aviles.

For people stuck at home and those having a hard time making ends meet in this uncertain time, help has arrived in the form of volunteers delivering fresh produce, eggs and other staples courtesy of the Change a Heart Foundation. Dana Aviles partnered with the foundation on a project to get food to those in need in Hollister.

“I saw on Facebook that they were doing the kind of thing I thought about doing, so I reached out to them so we could work together,” she said.

Volunteers started once-a-week deliveries to 97 families on April 6. The program grew quickly, as they added 43 special education families the week of April 20. It’s now serving over 280 households across San Benito, Monterey and Santa Clara counties, as well as senior facilities, schools, and shelters.

“The first day we had 12 families and we got food to them that night,” Aviles, 48, said. “By the end of the week, we got food to 50 families.”

Aviles joined her associate Jamii Pura and Change a Heart founder Todd Sondgroth on a constant search for new sources of goods to add to their deliveries.

“We are currently working with Community FoodBank,” Aviles said. “We are bartering with them, they are giving us things they do not need and we are giving them our extras. They just gave us fresh oranges and we traded 800 packages of salad mix.”

Change a Heart is leading the logistics of this effort. Sondgroth said he founded the organization six years ago to do good works, including building homes for the homeless and building wells in Africa.  

He said that when the virus hit, “we had things lined up for months with fundraising events and projects. Everything got closed down. I sat around for a few days and said ‘well, wherever God wants to send me to, I’m ready.’”

Participating families receive pre-packaged produce and vegetables from Taylor Farms, beans from L. A. Hearne, duck eggs from Olinday Farms, and rice and other fresh staples from a variety of donors. Deliveries are done in part by trucks and drivers from Fresh from D’Vine.

Olinday Farms is a recent addition to the program. So far, according to spokesman Sean Bolin, the farm has donated over 3,500 duck eggs.  

“We have our PeeWee eggs, which we do not sell,” said Bolin. “The ones we sell are larger, but these are about the same size as a large chicken egg. We have donated them to the Community FoodBank for years, but when Change a Heart asked us, we agreed to provide them eggs also.”

While businesses have been generous with donations, there are still some gaps in the supply chain.

“We are trying to make the boxes as well-rounded as we can to last for the week, with potatoes, pasta, and produce, but we are missing dairy products,” Pura said. “We need milk and cheese. Butter would be great. We are looking for dairy farmers who can help.”

Aviles has made volunteering a family affair.

“I have two teenage boys who are obviously away from school and sports,” she said. “I am trying to teach them that what we are going through is nothing compared to what is going on with people living in small apartments with multiple families. They have nowhere to go and no food to look forward to. If we can get food to them, they can do better as families and not have all the extra stress.”

The program has been successful enough to possibly continue after the stay-at-home order has been lifted, Aviles said.

“I don’t think the way it is running right now is the way it would be, but I would like to be an advocate for continuing to work with Taylor Farms, keeping the lines of communication open and being the middleman in distribution,” she said. “As long as there is somebody out there going to sleep on an empty stomach, we aren’t doing enough.”

While the program is not seeking volunteers at this time, donations are always welcome. Contact Change A Heart Foundation for more information. Requests for assistance can be sent to Todd Sondgroth by texting the address and size of the household to (831) 905-0482.

Editor’s note: Taylor Farms is a sponsor of BenitoLink’s Inclusionx youth training program.


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Robert Eliason

I’ve been a freelance photographer since my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. My dad taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.   I have had gallery showings and done commercial work but photojournalism is a wonderful challenge in storytelling.   The editors at BenitoLink have encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  It is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community.