The first day Vince Jenkins volunteered at the Laguna Food Pantry, he was standing in line to shop and noticed they received a large delivery. He asked if he could help. The team unloading the truck accepted and now, five years later, Vince volunteers four or five days a week at the Laguna Food Pantry. Vince’s road to recovery from homelessness to independent living with a job and an apartment has been long and hard. The friendship, support and goodwill he’s received from the Laguna Food Pantry as a volunteer and shopper have been invaluable to him in his new life. “I don’t have a lot of money, but I have the time,” he said. “This way, I can give back a little bit.”
Cosmin, Costica, and Marian
The Laguna Food Pantry welcomed three guest volunteers during their high school spring break! Cosmin, Costica, and Marian worked hard at the Pantry with their Laguna Beach host, Dan Nilsen. The three 15-year-old Romanian boys currently live in Kansas City, and thanks to the United Aid Foundation, they are sponsored to attend a private U.S. high school. Dan and his family hosted the boys in Laguna Beach, treating them to Duffy boat rides, beach days and whale watching. The teens were very excited to volunteer at the Pantry. Marian proudly admitted he earned the nickname, “Muscles.” The three boys agreed about the importance of giving back after having received so much love and support not only from the United Aid Foundation but also from their host families in the U.S. They grew up in a Romanian orphanage, and have been loved by a small but dedicated group of Americans who financially support them. Last fall, twins Cosmin and Costica fulfilled their lifelong dream of attending high school in Kansas City. They were to live with Pam Turner, a friend who had been like a mother to them and who offered to fund their tuition and living expenses. Tragically, Pam died in her sleep just as their new life was starting. The United Aid Foundation is raising funds to help pay the boys’ tuition, health insurance, school fees, and clothing. U.S. law requires international students attend a private school. “These young men were just precious,” said Anne Belyea, executive director of the Laguna Food Pantry. “They truly brightened the pantry with their enthusiasm. We’ll miss their smiling faces!”
Jay and her family moved to California for her husband’s commercial airline pilot job – which evaporated once they were settled. Falling from their comfortable middle class life was a shock, but Jay appreciated the Pantry as a bright spot for not only the food assistance but the new friends it offered. She was surprised at the ease with which she could access free, nutritious groceries. Now with her family back on its feet financially, Jay has not forgotten the kindness, dignity, and warmth extended by the Pantry. She volunteers and arranges food and funding drives among her colleagues in the real estate business where she now works.
Mary, mother to five children ages 5 to 16, struggled to keep food on the table after her husband’s executive search business suffered during the economic downturn. The Laguna Food Pantry helped the family stay in their home by easing the financial burden of grocery shopping. A licensed Realtor, Mary has been able to refocus her career now that her children are all in school and the economy has improved. She credits the Pantry for helping her now stable and thriving family through a difficult period.
One of our most dedicated volunteers started coming to Laguna Food Pantry as a shopper. Gisela has two children and cares for her elderly mother, who is recovering from cancer. Gisela was so grateful for the food provided to her family that she returns to volunteer one day each week to stock shelves and unload food between her work cleaning homes.