On December 1, the Wineries of the Presidio Neighborhood held their 2nd annual Presidio Holiday Stroll, which was a perfectly delightful afternoon that raised more than $10,000 for an amazing nonprofit. For $50 each, about 175 guests got to enjoy tastings at eight winery tasting rooms along with gourmet food. All the proceeds went to Food from the Heart (FFH), which provides tasty and nourishing food to homebound, ill individuals in Santa Barbara and Goleta.
Every tasting room and the lovely El Paseo courtyard were full of merry people, many of them wine club members and FFH supporters. The event was hosted by the Wineries of the Presidio Neighborhood, an informal group of eight wineries that is part of a larger informal group, the Presidio Neighborhood, both spearheaded by Hugh Margerum, Margerum Wine Company’s wine club/brand promotion manager. Margerum shared how the neighborhood has long been home to cultural and architectural treasures and in recent years, there has been a growth in tasting rooms, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and boutiques. He formed the Presidio Neighborhood group to fund a branding campaign touting the neighborhood as a destination. Now there’s a website, brochure with map, mobile app, and this annual event raising funds for a worthy nonprofit.
Participating wineries were Au Bon Climat, Cebada, Frequency Wine Company, Grassini Family Vineyards, Happy Canyon Vineyard, Jamie Slone Wines, Margerum Wine Company, and Silver Wines. FFH’s Executive Chef Aaron Casale prepared gourmet food and C’est Cheese generously provided nibbles too.
Founded in 1994, Food from the Heart provides nutritious, tasty food to about 160 homebound, ill people each week in Santa Barbara and Goleta. With a lean staff of four and about 100 volunteers, FFH prepares and delivers food free of charge. The organization’s name, according to Board Chair Kelly Onnen, reflects all the love that goes into each bag of food.
Fruits and vegetables are donated by area residents and harvested by volunteers. Pilgrim Terrace and Veggie Rescue also contribute produce. Bread is donated by Panera Bread, Vons, and Ethnic Breads. Volunteers prepare the food under Casale’s direction at Trinity Lutheran Church, which makes its kitchen and fellowship hall available at a greatly reduced fee. Another group of volunteers packs the food and another delivers it. The drivers visit with clients and some assist with chores on separate visits.
The bags of food, which are designed to last at least four days, contain soup, an entree, a baked casserole, a couple of salads, a bag of fruit, dessert, and bread. Menus change based on the produce donated that week. Not only is the food tasty and nutritious, it is also visually appealing, which Onnen explained is important to entice clients who have poor appetites.
Onnen shared that “Food From the Heart is truly a labor of love for all of our volunteers and staff. For our neighbors in the community who are struggling with serious illness and who lack the resources to nourish themselves back to health, we are that resource and that caring connection.” She added that FFH volunteers find the work very rewarding. A majority of them have been with FFH for at least five years, including Onnen (15), Vice Chair David Gonzales (10), and Treasurer Kathy Denlinger (11).
Clients are referred from medical agencies, with many coming through Hospice of Santa Barbara, the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, Cottage Health, and Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care. Clients can also self-refer. There is always a waitlist, but it is typically short. Triage ensures that the most needy always receive food.
Fresh produce donations are always needed, as are volunteers to harvest and drive. Cash donations are always sought and FFH is part of the SB Gives campaign. For more info, go to sbfoodfromtheheart.com.
For more info about the Presidio Neighborhood, go to presidioneighborhoodsb.com.
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By Gail Arnold