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Introducing our Newest Hunger Fighters of the Year

Written by Chris Ryan

It takes more than the Food Bank to feed those in need. We rely on so many others throughout the community who work and volunteer at all the agencies and programs that distribute Second Harvest food and produce. And each year, a distinguished panel of elected officials, newspaper publishers, and other community leaders considers a broad portfolio of deserving nominees and selects two extraordinary individuals for recognition. Introducing our newest Hunger Fighters of the Year.

“We’re a ‘heart’ program. Everything comes from the heart.”

These are the words of Henry Reynolds, who serves as Program Director, elder, advisor, and mentor at Teen Challenge Monterey Bay (TCMB), a faith-based, non-profit residential recovery program for adults with life-controlling problems, and at the associated Pajaro Rescue Mission homeless shelter.

Henry sources food, advises the “students,” manages the shelter, and has been an integral part of the program since he himself graduated from it 19 years ago.

“I take that bounty back to Loaves and Fishes, and I say to people, it’s like a miracle, isn’t it?”

In its existence, in addition to rescuing people from addiction and other problems, TCMB has served over 725,000 meals to people in need, and Henry has grown its food acquisition and provision to the level of 20,000 meals per month. His efforts also provide two hot meals plus lunch to go, 365 days per year, to those who come to the Pajaro Rescue Mission for emergency food and shelter.

The residency program also involves service to the community, and Henry encourages the students to volunteer at Second Harvest Food Bank, empowering them to contribute to the efforts which sustain their own program and the health of the community at large.

TCMB and Second Harvest staff and volunteers describe Henry as extraordinarily selfless, generous, and dedicated, with a big heart, and indispensable to relieving hunger and providing healthy food and nourishment to thousands of people in need throughout his years of service.

“I always felt privileged to be able to volunteer.” So says Ralph Cistaro, who hails from another of Second Harvest’s non-profit partners, Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes, a volunteer-run food pantry and kitchen that works to end hunger in the community.

hunger fighters

Ralph has devoted 3,000 hours of his time to Loaves and Fishes, selecting and acquiring food and produce at Second Harvest, unloading goods, serving clients, cleaning … doing whatever needs to be done.

The Watsonville pantry and soup kitchen fills a critical need in the community, serving low-income individuals and families to the tune of 25,000 lunches and 8,500 pantry visits each year. Many of the visitors work in the fields of the Pajaro Valley, harvesting the produce we all eat, and rely on Loaves and Fishes when work is unavailable.

Ralph knows many of them, and everyone at Loaves and Fishes who knows Ralph finds him extraordinarily compassionate, dedicated, empathetic, hardworking, and–like Henry–indispensable to providing healthy food and nourishment to thousands of people in need.

About “shopping” for food at Second Harvest, Ralph says, “I take that bounty back to Loaves and Fishes, and I say to people, it’s like a miracle, isn’t it?”

It is, but it relies on the hearts of volunteers like Henry and Ralph and, as both of them stressed, on the hunger-fighting efforts of the staff and volunteers they work with.

Day in, day out, Henry and Ralph fulfill the Second Harvest mission to end hunger and malnutrition by educating and involving the community. At our Annual Awards Dinner on March 8, we’ll be honoring them as Second Harvest’s Hunger Fighters of the Year.

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