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San Clemente Journal

The Food Channels Bring Help to the Hungry

Jul 09, 2020 11:29AM ● By Don Kindred

Kirk (Toby) Tobiassen, Herman Brown, Jr. and Jay Longley with his dog, Bentley.

By Don Kindred

Tom Hanks, in his role as Fred Rodgers in the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”, recently reminded us of an overlooked universal phenomenon. Whenever there is a crisis, no matter where it is in the world ... there will always be helpers. Whether they are the ones running toward the fire, or those standing to fight in the face of a known enemy or an unknown disease. They are also the ones finding healthy food for those at the low end of the food chain. The helpers always appear. 

The COVID Crisis has been no different. Even in good economic times, and even in our affluent South Orange County neighborhoods, there are hungry mouths. But when we have close to 3 million Californians loose their jobs in a span of weeks, normal sources are over-challenged, cupboards run dry. When the schools are closed, its adds weekly lunches to a disappearing family budget. 

Down here at the end of the county, we have a strong crop of helpers on the food front, we would like to share a few of their stories...

Jay Longley 
The Rainbow Sandals Foundation


Jay Longley is generally on the phone by 4:30 in the morning. Today, Eco Farms has a problem with eight thousand pounds of avocados. Pallets of the healthy fruit are sitting in a warehouse that can’t be sold through normal channels. Farm-fresh produce that will become tomorrow’s garbage unless it can be distributed to the hungry mouths that need it, not soon, but now. 

    Today it is avocados, tomorrow it may be trucks of organic blood oranges, meyer lemons, peppers, navel oranges. All good, healthy fruit that has size restrictions or spoil dates that won’t wait for grocery store distribution.

Longley, known as “Sparky” to most, has a thing about garbage. He notoriously started his worldwide, multi-million dollar Rainbow Sandals empire 45 years  ago when he tired of picking up cheap rubber sandals discarded along the shore where he surfed. 

Now, as a part-time avocado and fruit farmer, he is even more diligent about keeping excess produce out of the compost heaps and landfills and using it to help where it is needed. These days a lot is needed. 

Sparky is a central cog in a relatively unstructured machine that saves tomorrows waste by filling todays hungry food supply. His next call will be to another important cog in the wheel, Herman.

Herman Brown Jr. is an unassuming public servant with a golden soul and an iphone with every OC non-profit on speed dial. Herman specializes in filling needs. Quiet and observant, Herman is known to walk among the homeless, committing their names to memory, for recall when he sees them again. He is also known for getting things done. Herman is a helper. He’ll make a few calls of his own until he solves the next pieces of the puzzle. Where’s the biggest need?... and how do we get the fruit there? 

      By 9am, Kirk Tobiassen, a retired San Clemente firefighter with an unquenchable need to be useful, has taken a Rainbow Sandals Foundation truck on a 60-mile run south to Eco farms. On his way home, he puts out a call to another merry band of volunteers who will meet at the Rainbow warehouse to clean and separate the fruit into boxes for its ultimate destinations. Volunteers may leave with a taste of their labors but the trucks are reloaded for final delivery to one the many oranizations that feed hungry mouths in the South County.

Here are a few of the many organizations who have used their resources to fill the 
hungry mouths of South County.

Family Assistance Ministries
Crisis Kitchen Coalition
San Clemente Senior Center
Boys & Girls Club/Frank’s Auto Body
Second Harvest Food Bank
Mercy Warehouse.


The Crisis Kitchen Coalition Spearheaded by James Parris
After opening his new restaurant in 2018, James Parris, CEO of Sweet Home Capistrano, was just starting to get everything running smoothly. The menu was set with 
a delicious array of fresh breads and sandwiches, a display case overflowed with mouthwatering desserts. Customers were coming back, good reviews were coming in. 
That’s when COVID came to town, forcing him to close indefinitely. Rather than focus on his own predicament, Parris started to think of all the other people who were going to be 
affected by the shutdown. Local families and senior citizens were going to see their incomes evaporate quickly.

James figured that just because he couldn’t sell food, didn’t mean he couldn’t cook it and give it away. He had a working kitchen and a motivated staff. He started to make some calls. The first was to San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce board member Ricardo Beas, owner of Ricardo’s Place restaurant in San Juan Capistrano, which was also among the many restaurants that had to close during the pandemic. The Chamber jumped on board. 
He called Jim Taylor of the San Juan Fiesta Association, who had just had to postpone their annual Swallow’s Day Parade, who offered volunteers to help. 

More calls brought more food, Sparky from the Rainbow Sandals Foundation got involved and The Crisis Kitchen Coalition was born. The group began drive-thru distribution of homemade meals on March 21 at Marbella Plaza. (31115 Rancho Viejo Road) in San Juan Capistrano. To date they have provided 52,000 meals to the good folks of South Orange county.

The Coalition is accepting donations. Contact Parris at: [email protected]
If you have items to donate or call (949) 485.9733 for more information.
The distribution site is at Marbella Plaza (31115 Rancho Viejo Road) n San Juan Capistrano. Pick-up times are 8 to 10am, 12noon to 2pm. and 4pm Limits will be two meals per car. The food is free. Donations are accepted.

Second Harvest Food Bank Closing the Meal Gap in Orange County

 Second Harvest was founded in 1983 by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of Orange under the leadership of Dan Harney and Tom Fuentes with a simple vision; “A future where no one goes hungry, ever. 

Today it is the largest non-profit hunger relief organization in the county. Last year 
Second Harvest provided 26.5 million meals through their network, which includes several of the other organizations here in San Clemente, such as the Boys and Girls Club, COA and Saddleback Church’s Food Pantry.

8014 Marine Way, Irvine, CA 92618, Phone: (949) 653.2900

(above) Herman delivers Avacados to Mercy Warehouse

Mercy Warehouse - “Look, see, and do something about it.”

In the early 1990’s, Mike Hudgins, the founder of The Mercy Warehouse, was on a 

humanitarian trip to the impoverished city of Calcutta, now named Kolkata. While there, he decided that he would visit Mother Teresa. He wound up speaking with her in her compound while seated on a bench outside her bedroom door. She told him that he needed to “look, see, and do something about it” - even in his own hometown. This became the driving 

vision behind The Mercy Warehouse. They began doing just that in 2008 during the recession, and have been helping those in need ever since.

It is the mission of The Mercy Warehouse to provide food for those in need through the sale of donated goods. We are uniquely able to leverage valuable community and corporate relationships, causing every dollar that we earn in our thrift store to stretch into large quantities of high-quality groceries. 

Even before the Pandemic, the Warehouse was feeding over 1,000 people every week through their local food bank in Laguna Niguel, the numbers have since risen dramatically.27632 El Lazo, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677 •, (949) 910-0024

The COA Food Connection Program

As far back as 2016, Second Harvest Food Bank commissioned the Community

 Outreach Alliance (COA) to help them focus their food service to San Clemente’s large senior population. And since then, on the first and third Saturdays of every month, Community Outreach Alliance has been the connection between local senior citizens at Cotton’s Senior Housing complex. 

Currently The Food Connection Program settled into their new home at the Baha’i Center of San Clemente  (3316 Avenida Del Presidente). Where it has began open food distribution to the south San Clemente community every other Monday evening from 6 to 7pm. (All are welcome.)

 “These amazing volunteers are the Tuesday Team stocking the pantry all while enjoying the friendships they've developed through the process. Karen Grata, Joanne Carlson, Pam Sagastegui”....Lynda Brewer.

 In addition to serving the south San Clemente Community every other Monday 6-7pm at the Baha’i Center of San Clemente  (3316 Avenida Del Presidente) the COA Food Connection delivers groceries to seniors throughout the week and on Tuesday's delivers to the Cotton’s Point Senior Residences. 

Use the e-mail below if you would like to help COA continue its mission to serve. COA’s wish for 2020 is to afford this permanent home at the Baha’i of San Clemente. The monthly overhead cost to serve thousands is $700 a month. 

COA Food Connection, 3316 Avenida del Presidente  [email protected]

“These oranges are going to the Boys & Girls Club of the South Coast Area where they will be cleaned, packaged and sent out to many families in need. This is a whole other team from the club that has been shipping meals daily, working non-stop, truly amazing to watch. True dedication.” ...Jeremy Dugan

 Boy’s & Girls Club/Frank’s Auto

Jeremy Dugan used to spend  the majority of his time making wrecked-up cars look like new again. But after the pandemic hit Jeremy and fellow employee Mauricio have been focusing time and energy to help serve in the local food delivery network that has emerged in the face of this crisis. Through collection at the three Franks Auto locations and donations from food sources such as Rainbow Sandals Foundation, Frank’s Auto Body and the combined efforts of the San Clemente Sunrise Rotary Club, the SC Exchange Club, the Kiwanis, Second Harvest and Catarina’s Club, he was able to bring food to the Boys and Girls Club for families in their Emergency Food Program. The B&G Club program supports 40 families and have distributed 7,000 meals so far.

Donations accepted at: Boys and Girls Club, 1304 Calle Valle, San Clemente or Frank’s Auto Collision, Jeremy (949) 212-8067 | 2101 S El Camino Real, San Clemente 

Preparing Food for Delivery to Seniors

 The Dorothy Visser Senior Center

The Dorothy Visser Senior Center of San Clemente is a non-profit organization that provides resources to promote health, nutritional well-being to enhance our local seniors independence and quality of life.

While the San Clemente Senior Center has been officially “closed”. Volunteers  are continuing to serve “Meals on Wheels” to those who are living at home and unable to prepare their own meals or go out to eat.

According to Director Beth Apodaca. They also have “Grab n Go” for those who can get to the center on Avenida Victoria. (Parking fo these are done in the back of the building off of Rosa). Grab N Go is offered Monday thru Friday from 11:30am - 1pm. Seniors can drop by and pick up a frozen meal and most of the time we have other items they can “shop” for. For Meals on wheels they need to call and make arrangements. They get a hot meal and a frozen meal delivered. According to Beth, “Our biggest need right now are money donations to offset the number of seniors needing our service. We ask for a contribution, but it is not mandatory for the seniors. We are collecting non-perishable items to supplement the grab n go. Like everyone else we need masks, wipes, etc. We have a list of amazing people who have contacted us to help drive during this difficult time. So we are good on volunteers.”

Dorothy Vissar Senior Center,  117 Avenida Victoria, SC (949) 498-3322.


Marlene Cope Food Pantry Volunteer Leader, Andrew Hoang, Worship Director and Campus Pastor Eric Falcinella.

 Saddleback Church Grocery Distributions Bring Food and Hope to the Community

addleback Church San Clemente has had grocery distribution events for more than four years. But since the Covid-19 crisis, more than 50 food pantries in Orange County have closed, creating the need for the Saddleback San Clemente grocery distribution to increase its reach into the community. 

Grocery distribution drive-thru events are held every Wednesday morning from 10am-12noon to serve San Clemente.  Additionally, there is an event on the third Wednesday evening of the month from 6 -7:30pm, and every fourth Saturday of the month from 9-11am. 

 “Our grocery distributions offer non-perishable items as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, breads and sweets, meats, and frozen meals,” says Saddleback San Clemente Campus Pastor Eric Falcinella. “Our church wants to serve our San Clemente community.  Saddleback Church is committed to standing in the gap during this crisis and loving our community in a tangible way.  Come and see us with an empty trunk and we’ll fill it up with food and offer hope through prayer.”

In addition to food and prayer, Bibles, devotionals, and resource coaching by phone are available to the public.

As part of its commitment to serving the city, Saddleback Church San Clemente has held one-time grocery distributions in the community and continues to look for locations to have distributions that would help people right in their neighborhoods.  

Traditionally, San Clemente’s grocery distribution was a walk-thru and families shopped off stocked shelves. But at the beginning of March, Saddleback Church could see the need for more food for the community as so many businesses shut down, and for more safety for the families and volunteers from the virus. When Saddleback Mission Leader Rana Muncy changed the protocols for the safety of families and volunteers, the San Clemente grocery distribution was reorganized in three days to be ready for a drive-thru food pantry. By opening time on Wednesday, March 18, volunteers had worked to rearrange how food was packed and delivered to families!  “We now serve more than 100 families a week in our drive-thru,” says Falcinella.

All the San Clemente grocery distribution events are totally run by volunteers. They do everything from driving the food delivery truck down from the distribution center in Lake Forest, to unloading and sorting the food, bagging vegetables and bread, and storing the refrigerated and frozen items. All this is done with efficiency and care. All volunteers wear masks and gloves at all times.  The prayer team is available to help provide hope and resources. 

“This is the time for the Church to live out what God intended it to be. We want our church to outshine the darkness in this crisis,” says Rick Warren, Founder and Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church.  Saddleback San Clemente grocery distributions is one way the church is outshining the darkness in our community!

Donations can be made every Sunday from 8:30 to 11:30am and every Tuesday from 9am - 1pm.
Saddleback Church San Clemente, 1311 Calle Batido, San Clemente, (949) 609-8665 [email protected]

 Family Assistance Ministries Hunger and Homeless Prevention

Those in need may call first to (949) 492-847, where they will prepare and have your order ready. The pick-up area is behind their offices with a drive around back for pick up. If it is your first time, you need to call first for a phone interview. A case manager determines the needs and creates a work order. Volunteers then take the food and supplies to the waiting family or person, minimizing exposure to COVID-19.

Other priorities for FAM are in high demand as well.

  • Homeless Prevention: virtual case management, call for appointments for rent, utility, transportation, prescription, assistance etc.
  • Senior Response Program, delivery program, call senior hotline (949) 492-8477.
  • Gilchrist House Homeless Shelter, 24/7 serving single women and single mothers with children experiencing homeless.
  • Family House Emergency Shelter for Homeless Families, 24/7 serving single dads, single moms, dual parent households and pregnant women; with children.

 FAM is accepting new clients for all programs.

While FAM’s satellite offices have been closed for the time being however, FAM is providing what food they are able to share with partner locations serving people in need closer to their homes in the local community.

Family Assistance Ministries, 1030 Calle Negocio, San Clemente. For all services, call (949) 492-8477, Hours 10am – 3pm daily, M-F



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