They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and for our extended family of Coastsiders there’s a community-built kitchen at the heart of the pandemic response. It was built with local support and now it’s cooking and delivering more than 1,600 meals a week.

I’m talking about the Senior Coastsiders kitchen at 925 Main St. in Half Moon Bay. Every local should feel proud to be a part of the legacy of decades of fundraisers, millions of dollars in donations, and thousands of volunteer hours that make it possible to provide meals for our most vulnerable residents. Especially now.

In 1975, a group of local volunteers, led by Ted Adcock, envisioned an organization that would support older adults here on the coast. By 1977, Senior Coastsiders started serving three meals a week in a borrowed kitchen and delivering them to people’s homes.

The number of meals soon outgrew that kitchen so, in 1985, they raised enough money to build what is now the Ted Adcock Community Center. This was the first community-built kitchen on the Coastside. The group moved there, along with Coastside Opportunity Center (now Coastside Hope) and Half Moon Bay Parks and Recreation Department, and added many other activities and services beyond the meal program.

By 1995, it was clear that both Senior Coastsiders and the Coastside Adult Day Health Center needed more space. In 2014, after one of the Coastside’s longest and largest public fundraising efforts, the Senior Coastsiders community-built kitchen filled its refrigerator, fired up the ovens, and laid out the tablecloths at 925 Main St.

Over the past six years, our senior population has grown significantly in parallel with increased demand for services focused on older adults, but no one could have foreseen the central role our community-built kitchen would play when the dangers of COVID-19 required our most vulnerable citizens to shelter in place.

The week of March 2, Senior Coastsiders served 437 meals — about half served in the dining room and half delivered. By April 6, the crew home-delivered 1,195 meals. That's an increase of 274 percent in a month! And those are just the meals prepared specifically for Coastside seniors. There are hundreds more meals coming out of your community-built kitchen.

For many years Senior Coastsiders has partnered with the No Strings Attached Breakfast and Table of Plenty. By sharing our community-built kitchen, these programs have been able to transform their operations from sit-down dining to home delivery or “grab-and-go.” So together, these three programs are serving Coastside families over 1,600 meals a week.

Your community-built kitchen has become a center of creative thinking, innovation, and risk management. Just imagine what it takes for the staff and volunteers of these three organizations to provide so many meals. Anyone who’s been to a grocery store knows that food supplies are disrupted. Add to that the need to maintain health regulations for seven delivery routes (walking and driving), including gloves, masks, physical distancing, safely preparing and packaging the food, and creating entirely new, volunteer-based, home delivery systems. To ensure minimum disruption to the home-delivery cycle, should a Senior Coastsiders staff member or volunteer become ill or exposed to the virus, an entire backup crew of cooks, delivery volunteers and required staff is organized and stands ready to activate.

Meanwhile, your community-built kitchen requires a continuous stream of funding and donations. Federal funding distributed by the county doesn’t come close to covering the cost of each home-delivered meal, so donations from the clients we serve and the generosity of our community are essential. We are now in a recession that many say will be long and deep. Research indicates that after the 2008 recession, public donation revenue dropped by 7 percent in 2008 and by another 6.2 percent in 2009. As a result of the pandemic, Senior Coastsiders has had to cancel the annual Seniors Night Out and the Home Repair Day. Other major fundraising events that also generate important connections with the community could potentially be canceled as well.

Ted Adcock’s team cooked up an idea that has provided the Coastside with critical sustenance for decades. And perhaps more important than the food is the love and respect for one another that your community-built kitchen represents. When you assess 45 years of generosity, volunteerism and commitment, “pride of ownership” takes on a whole new meaning.

Robert Zadek is a member of the Senior Coastsiders board of directors.

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