A few cans of beans, a loaf of bread and a packet of hot dogs might not seem like much, but for the souls lined up outside the NOAH Distribution Center, those small gifts are all that stand between their family and starvation.
Each Wednesday in the Cross and Crown Church parking lot in Rohnert Park, Neighbors Organized Against Hunger (NOAH) offer bags of food to any who claim a need. Food banks aren’t glamorous, but they’re guardians of the community, keeping the beast of hunger at bay with off-brand boxes of macaroni and cheese and surplus frozen turkeys. In the best of times NOAH is an unfortunate necessity. In the worst they’re indispensable.
And Covid-19 hasn’t made these the best of times.
“All of us feel as time goes on it will get worse,” Darlene Phillips, President of the Board of Directors for NOAH said. “One of these days the Redwood Food Bank will run out of their grants and it’ll all come back onto us.”
NOAH receives approximately ninety percent of their food from the Redwood Food Bank. The other ten percent comes from sources like individual donations, grocery stores and school food drives. Rancho Cotate High School, for instance, donated over four thousand pounds of food this year despite the county’s ongoing stay-at-home order.
Donations like those which came from RCHS, lend confidence to Phillips. She feels that NOAH could still support the community in the eventually help from the Redwood Food Bank dries up. It won’t be easy, Phillips admits, but she feels they could pull it off.
“We’ve done it before,” she said with a shrug.
Much of Phillips’ confidence stems from the help they receive from the citizens of Rohnert Park, Cotati and Penngrove. Four churches and the Rotary Club provide much-needed volunteers and financial support; the Cross and Crown rents NOAH’s property at a greatly reduced rate; and most recently the city of Rohnert Park, Rotary’s Ken McCoy of Petaluma Home Loans and a very generous contractor worked together to install a much-needed generator for the organization.
The generator is actually a bit of a story on its own. Its installation took over a year and ten thousand dollars. NOAH petitioned and received five thousand dollars from Rohnert Park’s Small Grant Program. That money wasn’t enough, unfortunately. So NOAH turned to Ken McCoy who stepped in with another five-thousand-dollar donation. Rohnert Park’s expensive permit process stood as the final hurdle, which NOAH eventually convinced the city to wave.
“That took two months. It was awful,” Phillips said. “I love them dearly, but that was not a good experience.”
Now the generator is in place it provides NOAH, and by extension our community, a secure warehouse for food, immune to PG&E’s increasingly common electricity cutoffs. The law requires NOAH to throw out any perishable food in a freezer where the power fails and there is no generator. In the event of a disaster NOAH claims it will be well-positioned to offer support.
But the real question is how our community can support NOAH. They take cash and food donations, of course, but one of the easiest and cheapest ways is to sign them as a benefactor in AmazonSmile. It’s a program which links an Amazon account to a nonprofit. Amazon will donate a small percentage of any purchase to the charity to the user’s choice. Since it costs the user nothing, it’s a great way for the community to give back to NOAH in this season of giving.