SAN JOSE, Calif. - Organizers behind a tradition six decades in the making had to make a major shift this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The result had a South Bay non-profit used to helping others, receiving help.
"It’s been absolutely fantastic how the community has come out and really supported the cause," said Darlene Tenes, a spokeswoman for SJ CityTeam.
A pair of food trucks is open for business in an industrial section of San Jose this Christmas Day. The owners have come from different points the South Bay to support SJ CityTeam in its annual mission to feed homeless residents for the holidays.
"We’re a small business. And we’re a food truck. So when we’re called we go to where ever is needed and serve food," said Justin Funamura, owner of The Waffle Roost food truck.
He said the "Year of COVID" has produced plenty of bumps in the road. But he, and others felt compelled to come out and cook.
Normally, CityTeam prepares an all-you-can-eat spread, coupled with essential services such as haircuts, foot baths, clothing handouts, to help care for the less fortunate during the holidays.
"We want them to know that they have somewhere that they can come to. That they can be loved on. That they can be provided for," CityTeam Development Officer Melanie Davis said on Thanksgiving 2019.
But COVID-19 derailed this year’s plan. Indoor activities are barred by Santa Clara County’s Covid restrictions. Then, a kitchen staffer tested positive for the virus, killing any chance of cooking for the homeless.
Homeless advocates said a helping hand during the holidays can be the difference between life and death for the unhoused.
"This year they’re just trying to survive. We had a memorial service on my birthday, the 21st, 196 died. That’s up 250% from 2011 alone," said Pastor Scott Wagers of CHAM Deliverance Minstry.
CityTeam partnered with Ryan Sebastian of "Moveable Company," to bring in the two food trucks to prepare meals. Private donations covered the increased costs, from $2 per meal to $12.
"Anything that we can do to continue to serve those folks I think is a really huge thing," Ryan Sebastian of Moveable Co. said Wednesday. Added Tenes, "It’s been so fabulous to see this outpouring of Christmas spirit come together and do something good."
CityTeam officials said the two food trucks fed approximately 300 homeless San Jose residents.