On July 14, Food From The Heart (FFTH) hosted a 25th Anniversary Party at Pilgrim Terrace to celebrate this milestone and to thank its many dedicated volunteers, donors, and other community supporters. About 180 people enjoyed the afternoon event, which featured a delicious Santa Maria–style tri-tip and chicken barbecue and tasty sides. Board President Kelly Onnen shared how the organization has so many wonderful volunteers who work hard year-round so she wanted a day of pure enjoyment for them and wanted to express gratitude to donors and other community supporters, whose support is also essential.
Guests enjoyed mingling and then dining al fresco in the lovely park adjacent to the hydroponic gardens and housing. During the program, Onnen noted that the fabulous fresh vegetables being served at the event came from these gardens, which are operated by the Terrace Foundation, and from Tutti Frutti Farms, and that the food is the same nutritious food that FFTH serves its clients each week.
She acknowledged the momentous nature of the occasion — 25 years of feeding homebound, ill people in Santa Barbara and Goleta — and how it has been a pleasure and an honor to do so every week. Onnen acknowledged the serious funding and other challenges FFTH faced in its early years, but that it always came through — never missing a week of delivering food with smiles on volunteers’ faces. She reflected with pleasure on how now “the challenges are small, our hearts are light, and our work goes on.”
Founder Evelyn Jacob recounted the funding struggles in the early years and recognized Onnen for coming onto the scene and engaging in tireless networking to secure funding. She also recognized Trinity Lutheran Church for donating its kitchen for many years. Jacob reminisced with fondness how Julia Child used to volunteer whenever she was in town.
County Supervisor Gregg Hart presented FFTH with a Certificate of Recognition from the County and Executive Director Steven Sharpe read Certificates of Recognition sent by the City of Santa Barbara, the City of Goleta, and Congressmember Salud Carbajal.
The Terrace Foundation provided guests with guided tours of its impressive hydroponic gardens and even fresh greens to take home with them. The event was underwritten by Community West Bank.
Food From The Heart provides nutritious, tasty food to about 160 homebound, ill people each week. With a lean staff of four part-time workers and a core group of 60 volunteers, FFTH 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.
Volunteers prepare the food under Executive Chef Aaron 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. Volunteer drivers keep the same route each week so that they can develop a rapport with their clients.
According to Executive Director Steven Sharpe, FFTH’s clients are battling illness or recovering from major surgery, live alone, are homebound, and do not have the funds to hire a caregiver. FFTH nourishes them as they manage their illness or recovery. Volunteers speak enthusiastically about how much they enjoy being a part of the program, which explains why most stick around for many years.
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 is important to entice clients who have poor appetites.
The Terrace Foundation and Tutti Frutti Farms contribute most of the vegetables. Fruit is donated by area residents and harvested by volunteers. This spring, the harvest program received a City of Santa Barbara Spirit of Service Award for Waste Reduction in recognition of the 75,000 pounds of fruit it harvested last year — some of which would otherwise have gone to waste. FFTH donates considerable surplus fruit to other nonprofits.
Clients are referred from medical agencies, with many coming from Hospice of Santa Barbara, the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, Cottage Health, and Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care. Clients can also self-refer. There is typically a short waitlist, but those who truly need the service right away are added immediately.
Cash donations are always sought and new volunteers are always welcome. For more info, go to http://sbfoodfromtheheart.com.