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Clients’ Story

Cris never thought she’d experience homelessness. As a college graduate, mother and hard worker employed for more than 35 years, she never thought it could happen to her.

But then in 2013, her mother died unexpectedly and Cris and her adult son found that without their combined income (from the three of them), it took only five months for them to find themselves living out of their car. Cris’ mom didn’t have life insurance and Cris used the last of her own income to release her mother from the morgue for a proper cremation burial.

Without any savings, Cris and son found themselves on the streets; and that’s where they heard about Loaves and Fishes. Cris and her son lived out of their car for three years – sometimes getting a night in a motel, but nothing lasted long. Upon hearing about Loaves and Fishes and its meal program, Cris and her son began attending the Martinez dining room.

“I never dreamed a free, hot meal would be so good,” said Cris. “Also, I was amazed by how generous people could be. There were people older than me, and I’m 60 years old, volunteering to serve me a meal. They are my angels,” added Cris.

Cris came to Loaves and Fishes almost every day while she was experiencing homelessness. She enjoyed the hot meal and appreciate the food pantry filled with fresh produce items she could take away with her and have in her car to eat later. In addition to the food, Cris appreciated all the extras – new socks, hygiene kits and snack packs. “These extras really helped me save money, in fact, I have some of the lotion still in my bathroom right now,” exclaimed Cris.

After living out of her car, Cris now lives in an apartment in Concord, CA. She received help from CORE (Coordinated Outreach Referral Engagement) services from Contra Costa Health Services and moved into HUD low-incoming housing in September 2019.

Although Cris no longer frequents Loaves and Fishes on a daily basis, she stops by when she can to say hello and thank the staff for all they did for her.

“I don’t know what I would have done without Loaves and Fishes,” said Cris. “Everyone there cares and respects you. If you need anything, they will do their best to help you. I’m forever grateful for all they did for me and my son,” added Cris.

Living in her apartment, Cris spends time crocheting blankets. It’s a talent that she has and something she can do to give back. Cris has made several blankets and brought them to Loaves and Fishes for some of the babies of clients and staff. She’s more active and her heart condition has improved. Cris is in a better place and thanks Loaves and Fishes for helping her get there.

“What do I want people to know about my experience,” asked Cris? “I want them to know that my experience could happen to anyone. You could be one emergency away from being me. If my mother hadn’t suddenly died, I may not have needed Loaves and Fishes. But I am so grateful that Loaves and Fishes helped nourish my life to where I am today. Thank you, Loaves and Fishes,” exclaimed Cris!

Volunteer’s story

I started volunteering at the Loaves and Fishes main kitchen a few months after my husband passed away five years ago.

My friend, Claire Kurkjian, had been volunteering at the Loaves & Fishes central catering kitchen in Pittsburg for a couple of years, and she thought it might be a good distraction for me. She was right! I immediately found that I really loved donating my time to Loaves AND chopping veggies! Well, except the onions!

I had never done any volunteering except through our boys’ school and sports activities, so this was really different and so fulfilling. I feel I am giving back to the community by volunteering with Loaves each week, helping prepare food for the hundreds of meals that James prepares each weekday. I feel my contribution frees up time for head chef, James Porter, so he can devote his time to creating delicious dishes. (The chili mac last week was SO good!)

I have met so many wonderful people in both the Loaves & Fishes kitchen staff who work there, and the other central kitchen volunteers. I truly look forward each week to driving over Kirker Pass. That is the other thing I love especially in the winter when the hills are emerald green and the cows are grazing. It sure beats the freeway, and starts my morning off in such a calm and serene manner.

Student’s Story

Kelly is the parent of an adult child with Asperger’s Syndrome, who she has raised alone. This has afforded her with the opportunity to meet, engage and learn from a very broad spectrum of people. It has also blessed her with patience she never dreamed she could have.
The past almost 25 years have been an amazing rollercoaster ride of extremely high, highs and desperately low, lows. She began this journey as an employee of USDA, from where she thought she’d retire. After working with the USDA for five years, Kelly had a baby who arrived 13 weeks early and changed her life drastically. Her newborn (Pooh) spent 7 months in the hospital and then her husband left. Now it was just the two of them; Pooh and Kelly.

No job. No prospects. Unwilling to leave her sickly little baby with sitters, she had to get on assistance. Even though this is not as she planned, it did enable her to spend time with her son — something she wouldn’t trade for anything. Pooh wasn’t expected to mature past childhood, yet here he is at 24 years old.

Kelly is a singer who cooks! These are two of her greatest passions. Doing these two things lets Kelly touch people, spiritually and physically, making them happy and hopefully warming their hearts. Feeding people provides instant gratification for her! Kelly came to Loaves and Fishes Culinary Training Program after seeing the flyer twice at a county office building but only stopping to take one after she heard a voice in her head telling her to, “go back; go back and look at the fishes.” She turned around and took a flyer home.

Kelly was amazed that the class was FREE. She has been wanting to attend culinary school for years and had even applied to Le Cordon Bleu, but cost was always the deciding factor. Kelly feels like her childhood fantasy of opening a restaurant is finally attainable. Kelly is very thankful to Loaves and Fishes. If it wasn’t for Loaves and Fishes, she believes she wouldn’t have taken the leap of faith to follow her dream. She’s excited to serve others through her passion of feeding people.Kelly believes that just because she’s over 50 it doesn’t mean her life is coming to an end…she believes in new beginnings.