On Saturday morning, the Half Moon Bay Lions Club continued with its tradition of serving pancakes. But unlike previous years, volunteers delivered their food to car windows with gloved hands and greeted passengers behind masks.
The drive-by event in the parking lot behind the Portuguese Culture Center substituted benches for orange cones and arrow signs, directing people to enter through Johnston Street and process through the parking lot toward Main Street. The Lions Club fundraiser drew a crowd about half of what it usually brought in the more than 20 years that its members have been selling pancakes.
Though the club had been reluctant earlier in the summer to host events, members said increased comfort with easing restrictions, combined with what they saw as a great need for funds at local nonprofits and schools, prompted them to quickly organize Saturday’s pancake breakfast.
Mary Picchi, secretary of the club, said the Half Moon Bay chapter focuses on events that benefit the local community, noting the club has continued with several community service projects during the pandemic.
“There’s just such a need,” Picchi said.
At the start of the event, Jim Benson, president of the club, believed about 200 people would attend, based on pre-registration through the Eventbrite website. This was a fraction of the 400 to 500 attendees the organization is used to seeing.
“This is the first time we’re doing this, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed,” said Benson.
At 7:30 a.m., about 15 volunteers stood ready at their stations. At one end, an industrial-size hooded grill blew smoke into the cold morning air. Beside it a hot plate sizzled with sausages. At the opposite end of the assembly line, a metal box kept the food warm as volunteers loaded paper takeout containers with the hot food and a serving of fresh berries.
Four hours later, with the griddles cooled and tables loaded into cars, Benson estimated 130 people came and the group raised about $1,000.
The club will donate the money to the Half Moon Bay High School scholarship fund and Senior Coastsiders.
Cameron Jeffs, who has been a member of the Lions Club for 15 years, worked the griddle that morning. He admitted the event felt different without people crowding the parking lot and eating their breakfasts.
“It’s similar,” Jeffs said. “But there’s no connection.”
The breakfast was meant to stand in for their fundraiser at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Weigh-Off, which was held earlier this week but closed to the public. There, the Lions Club usually sells burgers with members of the local high school sports teams to help. This year, unable to get their usual cavalry to flip patties but still determined to raise funds, the organization decided to replicate their Fourth of July pancake tradition.
“Hopefully we won’t have to do this (event) this way again,” said Benson. “But if we do, we hope more people will come.”
The Lions Club has future service projects and fundraisers planned, including a poker night in November.