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When It Comes To Serving Food, People's Kitchen Is The Portrait Of Dedication

by Amanda Hollingworth
January 17, 2019
People's Kitchen Check Presentation
Representatives and volunteers for People's Kitchen accept at $1,000 donation from CoastHills employee Roberta Withrow and the Credit Union's employee giving program, "I'm All In."
Every day for the last 26 years — nearly 9,500 consecutive days — volunteers for the People’s Kitchen have opened their doors in Grover Beach to their neighbors. 

While the faces and location have changed over time, the goal remains the same. Members from the community come together to donate their time and resources to provide a hot lunch for any and all who come through their doors, no questions asked. 

“We try to take care of the community the best we can,” says Betsy Ehrler, a retired teacher and founder for People’s Kitchen. Over the years, she’s seen a lot of people down on their luck, but also a lot of success stories as clients move out of homelessness. 

Betsy estimates that the organization serves around 2000 meals each month. Towards the beginning of the month, they see about 40 people each day, but that number doubles as the month progresses and people run out of income from benefits — they’ve seen as many as 100 in a single day.  

The organization is fully grassroots and doesn’t advertise or even have a website. They operate on word-of-mouth. But through partnerships with other organizations assisting those struggling with homelessness or poverty, the People’s Kitchen acts as a major lifeline for those in need.

Each month the Community Health Center deploys a mobile services van to provide accessible health care to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to get the care they need.

The 5 Cities Homeless Coalition sponsors free haircuts so clients might have a better chance at securing a job. 

Betsy keeps two large bulletin boards on the wall to direct clients to information on where to find shelter and housing, support groups, assistance for veterans, upcoming events, and more. 

The People’s Kitchen has cultivated strong bonds with local service organizations like the Rotary or churches who often donate food and volunteers to run the lunch service. Because so many people are willing to lend a hand, Betsy is able to find more ways to make an impact. She acquired a storage shed and keeps it stocked with donated clothing and essentials like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, underwear, and deodorant.

For CoastHills Member Service Office Roberta Withrow, the People’s Kitchen holds a special place in heart because she’s surrounded by passionate volunteers — her mother, Elsie Greenmyer, who was a dedicated volunteer for the better part of a decade, and her coworker, Branch Manager Chris Soto. 

Roberta participates in the CoastHills employee-driven “I’m All In” program because she believes in making a difference, and she was recently selected to choose an organization to receive a $1,000 donation. For her, the choice was easy. She selected The People’s Kitchen because of her mother’s passion and because she’s heard so many stories about the incredible impact the organization has made due to community support. 

Thanks to Roberta’s donation, Betsy will be able to add a mobile shower to the list of services The People’s Kitchen provides. For many of the clients they serve, access to a warm, clean shower is a luxury — ؅and not being able to access a shower can be a major barrier to employment or otherwise improving their situation. The model Betsy has in mind will even allow the organization to host clients on-site as well as to travel to areas with a high need. 

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Similar topics: We Make A Difference, I'm All In

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