No shortage of help for or from NOAH
Outlets all over RP and Cotati will take food donations to help cause of Neighbors Organized Against Hunger
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By Natalie Gray  June 27, 2014 12:00 am

Every Wednesday afternoon, while many mosey north to Santa Rosa for their fill of free produce samples and wine, there is a group in Rohnert Park busing themselves with free food as well.

It’s not in preparation for a social fair or to even attempt to inspire others to buy food or to return to a business next week. In fact, this group aims for just the opposite; it sets out to make absolutely no money and, though they would love to reach as many people as possible, in truth, it would be satisfactory if the list of people that visited them shortened.

They are NOAH – Neighbors Organized Against Hunger. Stationed at a former medical office nestled besides Cross and Crown Church, the organization comes together to hand out food to the needy of Rohnert Park, Cotati and Penngrove.


Only so much can be done

“We can only do so much,” said John Umland, president of the NOAH board and long-time volunteer, “but it is very important that we do something to help.”

You’ve probably seen NOAH’s food donation bins while grocery shopping around town, like at the Grocery Outlet, which has them set up nearly all year long. There are many of these bins seemingly everywhere, from stores to schools, waiting to be filled with donations from generous neighbors.

According to Umland, the locals have very much indeed proved to be generous neighbors; last year, Rancho Cotate and Technology High Schools together donated more than 14,000 pounds of food and the Grocery Outlet recently provided a food donation of 5,000 pounds.  NOAH is also partnered with the Redwood Empire Food Bank and sometimes receives donations from Sonoma State’s student garden.

Volunteer groups, such as the Girl Scouts and Brownies, also help hand out food.

“It’s a good way to get involved and help your neighbors out,” said Umland.

NOAH was founded in 2004 as a joint effort with four local churches, Cross and Crown Lutheran, Rohnert Park Bible, St. Johns Methodist and Holy Family Episcopal. Not long after its conception, the Rotary clubs of Rohnert Park and Cotati and Rancho Cotati joined forces with the churches to help stabilize and support NOAH. Their support continues on to this day.

After a short time residing at various locations, like the Mountain Shadows Middle School, the organization found a permanent home in an old medical office on Snyder Lane some two years ago. That is, in part, where some of Umland’s involvement in the program began.


Assuming leadership role

Umland joined the organization through his church, Cross and Crown Lutheran, which still retains a close connection with NOAH. When a close friend of Umland’s had to leave his position on the NOAH seven-member board because of health reasons, Umland decided to take his place. The transition came at a propitious time, as Umland, formally an insurance worker, was able to draft a lease for the organization to move to their now current home just on the other side of Cross and Crown’s parking lot. 

With a permanent location, NOAH is able to provide a steady flow of help and support to 200 local households each week, with an estimation of 550 individual family members receiving the food and aid they need to get by. There is an estimated 175 children under the age of 18 and 106 people over the age of 60 provided for each week.


Bring your own bags

Each Wednesday, NOAH opens its backdoors to those locals in need and distributes more than 20 pounds of food, consisting of bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and canned goods. Families and clients do not need to show financial reports, but are asked to show evidence that they are residents of Rohnert Park, Cotati or Penngrove. They are also asked to bring their own bags for pickup.

NOAH is always accepting new donations, volunteers and clients in need. If you are interested in donating food or money, or are interested in donating your time to help your neighbors, you can give them a call at (707) 548-6624. If you are interested, or know someone who may be interested in attending the food delivery, NOAH is located at 5443 Snyder Ln. Food distribution is from 4-6 p.m. 

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