Agency Spotlight: Holy Cross Church

Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz is a food pantry primarily serving the West Side of Santa Cruz. The pantry is run by a team of 50 volunteers who share responsibilities, such as picking up food at the Second Harvest warehouse in Watsonville, stocking pantry shelves, and working on-site during food distributions. The pantry is open from 10 am to 2 pm, Wednesdays through Fridays, and serves between 500 and 700 people each month.

Al Richard, who has been managing the pantry for close to two decades, says they distribute 4,000-5,000 pounds of food each month, most of which comes from Second Harvest. On Fridays, he takes inventory and uses Second Harvest’s online system to order non-perishables for delivery the following Tuesday.

On Wednesdays, they pick up fresh produce at the food bank. A grant from Second Harvest last Spring came in the knick of time says Al, allowing them to purchase a new freezer just as the old one was getting ready to quit.

Al was a panelist at Second Harvest’s 2013 Nutrition Summit and he is an expert on food safety. He maintains a binder of guidelines and ensures all volunteers are taught to use “the book”. Al’s motto is, “Don’t give it out if you wouldn’t serve it at home.”

Al in the Holy Cross Church pantry.

Al Richard in the Holy Cross Church pantry.

The church collaborates with other non-profit organizations in Santa Cruz such as the St. Francis Soup Kitchen to help meet the needs of the community. They maintain a binder listing programs in Santa Cruz County that are available to help people get back on their feet, and provide referrals as appropriate.

Holy Cross offers additional services ranging from financial vouchers for gas, laundry, and utility bills, to rental assistance. The help they can give depends on how much money they have raised. The church’s 5th Sunday collection, student fund raising events, grants, and private donations all help; however, as is the case with most non-profits, they never know how much money they will have from year to year.

Every week, Holy Cross houses up to 25 people for one night. They provide a warm meal and a place to sleep. Families with children get priority. They often have items donated by parishioners such as clothing, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste to distribute. “Everybody has a story and we have to make a decision whether they can stay or not,” says Al. “It is very difficult.”

Al and his team at Holy Cross do an incredible job of helping people in need in our community. By engaging parishioners and students, and collaborating with their partners in the non-profit community, they are able to make a huge difference in people’s lives.

Just as we experience at Second Harvest, many of the people helped by the pantry return to volunteer as a way of giving back for the support they received during trying times.

Thanks to everyone at Holy Cross for doing what it takes to improve the lives of the less fortunate in our community.

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