September 19, 2021
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People helping people during COVID-19

  • Redwood Empire Food Bank volunteers Cassidy Jourdan and Carly Rafanelli helped unload non-perishable food items from donors' cars and collected monetary donations at their Drive-thru Food & Funds Drive on Monday. Photo by Robert Grant

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
May 1, 2020

The Community Voice continues to explore and publish “silver linings” found in the dark cloud, which is the Covid-19 pandemic. Our series started two weeks ago. My story started the series by looking at significant, positive environmental impacts. Last week and this week, our news team reporter Stephanie Derammelaere continues the series by looking at how the pandemic is inspiring people into giving back. She reported: “Stories abound of neighbors helping neighbors, the increase of volunteers, and many people donating food, supplies, masks and other needed items.” This story is yet another example of what that looks like in our local community.

The Redwood Empire Food Bank has been fighting hunger in our community since 1987. They are the largest hunger relief organization serving north coastal counties in California from Sonoma County all the way north to the Oregon border. According to their website at, they are helping “82,000 children, seniors and adults with fresh food, groceries and meals in Sonoma County alone.” Usually relying on a network of 8,500 volunteers and 45 full time staff, as you can imagine they are also impacted by the pandemic and the shelter in place orders. Although their work is essential, even more so right now, with many folks unable to work, many of their volunteers are among the high-risk populations. But they are continuing their vital work as best they can.

In addition to volunteers, the food bank relies on donations of both money and food to serve their customers. To continue that work, they’ve dispatched mobile food collection donation trucks to locations throughout Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino and other North Bay counties. Last week they were in Petaluma. They’ll

be in Santa Rosa by City Hall next. Today, on Apr 27, they were at the Ray Miller Community Center behind Cotati City Hall on E. School Street from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. They were collecting non-perishable foods and money donations. 

The drop-off drive through location was staffed by Cassidy Jourdan and Carly Rafanelli. Wearing masks and other protective gear, they collected donations handed to them from drivers dropping them off. Jourdan said they normally collect between 800-1,400 lbs. of food donations and average $1,000.00 at each event. However, she noted they collected 8,000 lbs. in Petaluma at their last event. Again, according to their website, every $1 donated allows them to provide $4 worth of food. They also state that 94 percent of all resources goes to support their hunger programs.

The pace at the Cotati’s mobile site was leisurely. A vehicle pulled up every few minutes with donations. A few rules had to be followed for safety. These included no donations contained in glassware. The drivers had to stay in their cars and be wearing a face mask. If there was an illness or a fever for them or anyone in their household in the last 72 hours, they were asked not to participate at this time.

People in the area found out about the event through social media postings on their Facebook page at Redwood Empire Food Bank; and through shared postings on personal pages and within community groups. The events are also advertised on city event websites and billboards. If you need food assistance, want to volunteer, or donate to their efforts and couldn’t make this event; you can do so through their website. If you like their page, you’ll also receive future notice of events when they are posted. You may also call 707-523-7900 for assistance or information. Just one more example of a “silver lining” shining through. Without people helping people, they wouldn’t be able to continue this valuable work.