Throughout the country, there are eighty-plus Project Access Resource Centers
that provide affordable housing complexes and social services to its residences. They are the leading provider of vital on-site health, education, and employment services to families, children, and seniors living in affordable housing communities.
Prior to the pandemic Veronica Arias-Aguayo Project Access Resident Services, Regional Manager who oversees five Orange County complexes and four in the Inland Empire, met Bill Bracken at Warwick Square in Santa Ana. Bill would arrive with Betsy, the food truck, and feed all of Warwick’s residents every other week. Bracken’s also provided Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for their families and seniors.
“Bracken’s is a huge blessing to us. When the Bracken’s team shows up it’s like our family arrived. They welcome everyone with a warm smile. We are all very comfortable with them, the residents look forward to the healthy meals for their families,” said Veronica. “Our working parents had a huge sense of relief when the truck showed up with warm, delicious meals for all of our residents. They never had to worry about feeding their families. They also brought fresh produces boxes for everyone.”
When COVID hit, the residents and especially the seniors were afraid to leave their homes, afraid of getting sick, and the fear of the unknown. Veronica called Cat and Bill and they jumped in and quickly offered delicious frozen meal trays to-go that could be delivered to residents in Orange County and the Inland Empire.
“So many seniors do not have access to food, they don’t have family nearby and Bracken’s made food deliveries happen for them,” said Veronica. She regularly delivered meals to Hesperia to the senior residences.
On a recent visit to Bracken’s Kitchen to get a tour of the kitchen, Veronica met the kitchen team and told them she wishes they each could see the faces of the seniors in Hesperia when they receive the food. “I told them in Spanish, ‘you are making an impact and they are all very grateful’ the kitchen team are chopping, measuring, cooking, packaging food that tastes great for people they’ve never met and who need the food to stay healthy and to survive.”
Maria Paleaz, another Resident Services Coordinator at Project Access serves as a substitute and firsthand witnessed the vast amount of food that different communities receive. While helping a center, there was a consistent resident who would receive the weekly frozen meals.
“The past months have been hard for myself and everyone. I lost my job and so did my husband. I did not have much money to buy food. Yet, we were not left alone as we received food every week,” said the resident. “This helped a lot because there were nights that I did not know what I would feed my family. The food I received was the food I fed my children. Thank you for that.”
Three more residents were able to share their stories and how the food has helped them. Their words were translated into English.
“My husband was laid off and he is the sole provider for the household. We do not
have any source of income so we relied on Project Access for any type of food assistance. We received weekly meals for family dinner which helped feed my family. We really enjoyed the pasta,” said Socorro.
Aida said, “During the pandemic, only my husband was working part-time. We have two children under 6 years old. I would pick up the meals weekly at the community center. Our favorite was the pasta and the chicken. It helped us by allowing us to use the money for other bills.”
And finally, Sebastian said, “I was laid off during the pandemic. I had two daughters and my wife was pregnant while I was receiving Bracken’s Kitchen. My wife is a stay-at-home Mom and we don’t receive any other assistance. The kids really enjoyed the pasta. We are so grateful for the center and Bracken’s Kitchen. Before the pandemic, Bracken’s would bring the food truck and provide hot meals for all of our family. This helped us not worry about putting food on the table for the day and it was really good.”
Bracken’s Kitchen is honored to serve Project Access residents who need it most.