St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church
We’re grateful for people who spearhead programs to help a community in need. It allows us to provide meals for those who need it most.
Marta Rodriguez, formerly the office administrator at St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Santa Ana, met with Bill Bracken in 2017 and cultivated a friendship and partnership that initiated providing prepared hot meals and food boxes for those in need in the nearby Santa Ana community. Today Marta is a volunteer who oversees the program.
On a recent evening 150 people, mostly families with young children, lined up to receive BBQ chicken leg and thighs with roasted potatoes, mixed green salad, and fresh melon from our newest food truck, Babs. The monthly program, “Dinner in The Courtyard” allows families to gather together to enjoy hot meals together, or they have the option to bring home boxes of food.
Steven Johnson, the Church Council President for St. Peter Lutheran church said Bracken’s Kitchen is a strong, great partner for the neighborhood. “The church faces the neighborhood and it's extremely important that we address the needs of the people. And we've heard from the neighbors, that food is something that is hard to put on the table.”
Most of the recipients of the meals are severely affected by the pandemic and still struggle to make ends meet. Some were first-timers and others are regulars who know about the high-quality foods that Bracken’s provides.
One woman at the feeding gave birth during the pandemic and everyone in her family got COVID. There were 12 to 15 people affected. “It's been hard. I've been getting help from my mother. Thanks to food stamps, and I've also gone to churches and other places where they give free food, like vegetables. None of us worked for about three, four months. We had enough savings to just get by, which was really good. But it's been hard to just back track three months of unpaid bills and everything,” said one recipient.
“This food helps a lot because once you're getting back to normal, it's kind of hard to maintain a steady income for everyone because, in our family, we're seven. And we live in a two-bedroom apartment, so it's really hard for us, not necessarily for everybody, but for us to get enough to take to work after or have leftovers for the next day.” Another young mother said, “People who give out free food, it really does help a lot. It helps us make sure that we eat something every day, at least two or three times a day with the COVID almost three months, we were eating every other day. It was really, really hard. But this is just amazing, it provides a great service especially in this area. The food is so good. Honestly, it's really, really good. This is maybe the third or fourth time that we come down. It's really good, my mom loves it. I also give some of the veggies and children they pass, I give it to my baby as well.”
Another single mom of two young kids was also affected by the pandemic and
struggled to keep afloat.
“I lost my job and I didn't have a place to stay because I couldn't afford rent. I had to move in with my mom and live in her garage at the moment. I'm a single mom and I have two kids and it's kind of hard on me. I went with Medicaid so I could get food stamps. And I used to go to a church over here. I think it's the fifth time I’ve been here for food, I'm always checking where they're giving out food, you know?” Another young mother said she and her daughter both got COVID early on in the pandemic. “We went to a party and it was packed with people. My daughter was especially sick. I was really scared for her. Because after that she had strep throat and she had a staph infection in her, so it went really bad for her. She was hospitalized and everything. We always thank God every day. I actually got back to working really like a month ago. And now, I owe three months of rent. I'm trying to get another job that I can work through shifts and then I have to take the kids to school. It's kind of hard for me right now. I was single, my partner started helping me out. I have four kids. It’s my first time trying this food, but I see that everyone’s enjoying it.”
One expecting mom is a regular and enjoys delicious hot meals. The pandemic hit her hard, but she has a lot to be thankful for. “The beginning was pretty rough. The help of churches and just the community itself has really helped us together. Support of food, the support of sometimes helping with rent. I was part-time and then at one point they put me on a furlough for a month or so, and then thankfully my boss called me back asking if I wanted to come back working at a different position full time. I said, "absolutely." Thanks be to God more than anything.
Another guest said, “the last time when I was here, they had turkey and there was dessert, which was really delicious, it was brownies. That was the last time I was here. Most of the time, I just usually get the box.”
The team at Bracken's Kitchen is so very grateful to be able to make a difference in the lives of the residents in the community and thankful to carry on this partnership that Marta Rodriguez initiated.