COVID forces South Bay nonprofit to adjust Thanksgiving meal service, but doesn't dampen spirit
SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - The COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop a South Bay nonprofit from distributing holiday meals to those in need.
Several hundred homeless people in San Jose received a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in a not so traditional way. City Team found a way to work around the pandemic and provide grab and go meals.
“Tonight is a little special because it is Thanksgiving,” said City Team Food Service Manager and Chef Reynolds Stewart.
Every year on Thanksgiving, the organization prepares its annual dinner for the most vulnerable in San Jose. On the menu: turkey, mac and cheese and, stuffing. And those were just some of the items. But this year it was served differently due to the pandemic.
“This year is tough because I built up a reputation with the homeless community that on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Stewart. “We invite them into a dining room all day.”
Stewart said he knows it’s not easy. In years past, the homeless community ate and lingered in the dining room all day. For the first time in the nonprofit's 63 year history, dinner was served outdoors, prepacked and ready to go.
“They are going to take their meal,” said Stewart. “They are going to walk to wherever they walk to. They are going to go to their car. They are going to go to their camper.”
City Team also provided a separate bag, a hygiene kit complete with hand sanitizer as well as warm clothing and socks.
The nonprofit usually has 60 volunteers in the kitchen, but this year City Team had to make some adjustments. About 20 men from the organization's drug recovery program helped out in the kitchen.
“They are like a family putting a meal together with all the safety measures possible,” said Stewart.
“My life before this program was kind of hectic in and out of jail,” said Volunteer Leo Rueda.
Rueda, a 35-year-old father of three from Hollister has been in City Team’s recovery program since February. He said he's thankful for a second chance.
“The main thing is giving back, giving back to the community,” said Rueda. “I was never a person to help anybody out but now that’s all changed.”
“It blesses my heart,” said City Team Operations Manager James Alvarado. “I love to see the men. They are excited. They are compassionate.”
While it was not the normal Thanksgiving Day service, COVID-19 didn't dampen the spirit of holiday giving and sharing.
“I just want to give them hope,” said Rueda. “If I can do it you can do it.”
“A loving experience, a Happy Thanksgiving,” said Stewart. “We care for you. This is what we can do for you today.”
Dinner service started at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. The nonprofit fed between 300 to 400 people, which was significantly down from last year. They attribute that to people having to travel.