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Better Together: Feeding Seniors in Need

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- On one recent morning, Rev. Cynthia Joseph and retired social services coordinator Wanda Hutchinson greeted volunteers as they delivered bags of free groceries to Fellowship Manor, an affordable-housing complex in San Francisco that is home to about 100 seniors and others with different abilities.

Three times a week about 25 bags of food show up at the complex filled with such goodies as organic chicken, eggs, fresh fruits, vegetables and even real butter. The bags are delivered by the Village Project, a San Francisco-based non-profit that serves families and children in underserved communities living in public and subsidized housing.

Rev. Joseph is the activities director at Fellowship Manor and she along with Hutchinson hand out the supplies to the residents.

"When we give them the bag [the residents] are so excited and happy that someone is thinking about them during this pandemic time and bringing them something to eat," Rev. Joseph said. "They love it!"

It began with Village Project founder and director Adrian Williams.

Since the pandemic began, Williams has been rising at the crack of dawn five days a week and heading to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. There she picks up nearly 900 pounds of food for the bargain price of 18 cents per pound. She then stuffs every square inch of her small Jeep with groceries. It's a process she repeats virtually every afternoon as well.

The groceries are then packed by Williams herself working with a handful of others who then turn all the goods into 2,000 bags of deliverable food each month. Mostly it all goes to San Francisco seniors, a group Williams really began to worry about at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

"After the shutdown I started thinking my seniors aren't going to be able to eat," Williams said. "So that's what we started bagging [the groceries] up. So I think the first week it was about 50 bags then -- now -- over a hundred bags a day."

As the pandemic has dragged on, Williams says she has lost count of just how many locations and individuals she is helping.

"Working -- it's just constant," said a weary Williams. "So when we get done, we hit the food bank again, go do that, go home, sleep."

Williams has a wish list of things she needs to keep this crucial service going. Number one on that list are new green, heavy-duty, reusable plastic shopping bags. Due to COVID-19 and other concerns, Williams cannot accept bags that have already been used.

She's hoping for a donated van that could reduce her twice-daily food bank runs. The food bank provides free fruit and vegetables, along with other items like paper towels. Williams does receive food donations from Amazon, Bi-Rite and other supermarket chains but the additional purchases are adding up.

Up until now she's been diverting funds from her youth programs but almost all of that has now been spent on food. So Williams prays for a miracle -- and donations -- so she can continue to serve the community she loves like the seniors at Fellowship Manor who depend on this food to survive.

"[The seniors] they're happy," said Wanda Hutchinson, the retired social services coordinator for Fellowship Manor who now volunteers at the housing complex. "[The seniors] keep saying 'Really? I don't have to pay anything?' [I say to them] 'no it's just a kind gesture!' They are always really grateful."


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