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2 friends lead nonprofit bringing nourishment to needy in South Bay

Nonprofit Community Seva keeps those in need fed in the South Bay
South Bay nonprofit Community Seva keeps those in need fed 03:46

A pair of volunteers goes out of their way to bring warmth and nourishment to the unhoused, not just during the holidays, but all year round.  

When Nathan Ganeshan was laid off from his tech job in 2012, he started to fill his time buying food that he and his family would give to homeless people in the park. Now, he's giving back to people all across the Bay Area.

"It was terrible to see people sleeping on the streets, sleeping on the bench in the parks," Ganeshan said.

One day, his then-seven-year-old son pointed out that they were skipping their regularly-scheduled delivery to the unhoused.

"He asked, 'Dad, today, we're going to the tennis tournament, but the people will be waiting for food. Who will be feeding them?'" Ganeshan recalled.

That prompted Ganeshan to start the nonprofit Community Seva in San Jose in 2013.

"Seva" means "selfless service" in Sanskrit.

Volunteers cook and deliver hot food to the unhoused and senior citizens in shelters, encampments, and parking lots in 9 cities in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties.

To date, nearly 3,000 volunteers have served more than 300,000 meals. That includes weekly trips to two RV parks in Oakland.

The nonprofit brings hot Sunday breakfasts to more than 120 people, mostly senior citizens, who don't have stoves for cooking.

Vincent Seelan oversees the East Bay food distribution; he's volunteered with Community Seva for nine years. Most of that time has been alongside his daughter, who's now aged 18.

"The food that you have cooked - and when you serve them hot - and when you see the smiles on the faces of these people, that reallly makes your day and you want to do more and more and more," Seelan said.

Besides homecooked meals, Community Seva also gives away basics like blankets, backpacks, sleeping bags, and shoes, and partners with other agencies to provide mobile showers.

Jean-Claude, who didn't want to use his last name, is grateful for the blanket and chicken and rice lunch he received on this day.

Unemployed for a year, he's a week into his new job in retail, and he's grateful for the support that helps him get back on his feet in his temporary home.

"It gives you that drive, just to keep going, to recognize people care about you. People actually see who you are as a person," he smiled.

That response inspires Ganeshan and Seelan to continue covering folks with a blanket of compassion.

"We are blessed to be where we are so giving back to the community is essential," Seelan said.

"Life is about how you care for others," Ganeshan added.

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