Holy Family Table serves community
Tami Jo Nix/The Madera Tribune
The cooking crew at Holy Family Table of St. Joachim Catholic Church work from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, cooking hot meals such as burritos to go with two pieces of fruit, pizza, sandwiches and a dessert item. Clean up usually takes from 11 a.m. To 1 p.m.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Madera County last year, Holy Family Table, a soup kitchen served out of Griffin Hall and run by St. Joachim Catholic Church, shifted gears and continued to serve breakfast.
Although they served almost 30,000 less meals in 2020 than 2021, it doesn’t mean they didn’t serve that many less people.
“Now, with COVID, we only give them one sack per person,” said HFT Coordinator Luis Zarco. “Before that, we would count by how many plates we served. Some of them would have seconds and thirds if they were hungry.”
In three months this year, HFT has served more than 23,000 meals and continues where it’s needed.
“We transitioned overnight,” Zarco said about serving during the pandemic. “From having people to dine in the hall, we served lunch in bags.”
HFT serves about 200 meals each morning from 8 until 9:30 a.m. at Griffin Hall (201 North C Street).
“Right now, we are only doing breakfast,” Zarco said. “The menu changes day-by-day. Our cooks have the freedom to see what we have and they are free to put something together. There’s not a set menu. They go the day before and plan ahead.”
Zarco is the only paid person at HFT, but he said he enjoys what he is doing for the church and the community.
“For me, it’s the love of being able to serve my community,” he said. “Just seeing the people receiving it, especially in the cold months, is great. In those months, we served hot meals and soups. Just their faces of joy of having something warm in their belly.
“We had a few people that were really thankful. They said if it wasn’t for us, they didn’t know where they would get their meal. That’s why we do this. It’s how we get paid.”
Zarco said he enjoys what he is doing and sees a line of people waiting before the doors open every day.
“Just this morning, I looked outside before the doors open, there were 45-60 people waiting,” Zarco said. “Right now, we’re averaging 200 meals. If the need was more, we would like to do more. The donations are still coming in. We are blessed. For us, the businesses are donating a lot more and we have the goods to be able to serve more.”
All of HFT’s funding comes through donations. St. Joachim parishioners donated to HFT during its annual food drive.
“A lot of Madera stores and a lot of stores from surrounding areas donate to us,” Zarco said.
Now, with the county opening up a little, HFT has resumed inside meal service. With COVID-19, every item in the meal bag has to be individually wrapped and a lot of work is done by volunteers.
“As a coordinator, we have a lot of loyal volunteers that show up 5-6 days a week,” Zarco said. “They know what needs to get done. I’m the only employee. As a coordinator, they make my job easier. They know what needs to get done and go straight at it.”
However, Zarco is looking for crew leaders and cooks.
“With COVID, my cooks were on the elderly side and some had health issues,” he said. “Because of COVID, they stepped back. Some of my current cooks had to step in to cover for the days that need to be covered. I have a few days that are available for anybody that are talented cooks, we are still looking for cooks.”
Volunteering is easy at HFT. All one has to do is fill out a couple of forms and they are able to help out.
“All they have to do is show up at the hall,” he said. “We have a couple of forms they have to fill out, a volunteer form and a code of conduct form that explains the rules and regulations we have.”
Although Zarco is the only paid member of HFT, his real payment comes when he sees the smiles on faces, especially the kids.
“For me, when we were open, I really enjoyed the little kids and see their faces when they got a pizza or juice box. They were so happy,” he said.