As the coronavirus spreads and causes social and financial disruption in the mountain communities, it also has inspired some creative solutions that local organizations are implementing to help the transition.
On Thursday, March 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered California’s 40 million residents to stay at home indefinitely, not to venture out except for essential trips, such as travel to grocery stores, fueling stations, food banks, convenience stores, some restaurants and banks, among others.
Many people in the Valley were suddenly finding themselves unemployed due to the closing of nonessential businesses or unwilling or unable to risk trips down the mountain to the grocery stores there. Food shortages also caused local residents to experience a severe disadvantage.
“Every disaster that has happened over the last three years in Anza has shut our business down and in this particular case we were fortunate and grateful enough to be left open,” Robyn Garrison, owner of the Common Grounds Coffee cart located at the corner of Kirby Road and Highway 371 in Anza, said. “Because of that we had an opportunity to work with our community and help those that are in need. We have been working with other outreach organizations regularly and this just gave us another opportunity to help.”
Garrison contacted the restaurant’s food vendor and explained what she wanted to do to make sure that he would allow it. The vendor agreed.
She posted a menu of available items, such as bags of flour, bulk hamburger, rice, dried beans, eggs and commercial grade toilet paper – on local Facebook groups. The response was staggering, and it builds every week.
“Facebook has been our best avenue to get the word out and then of course with our small community once someone knows, everyone knows,” Garrison said with a grin.
The program is driven by consumer needs. Items such as yeast are becoming popular as people start baking their own bread. Prices can vary from the suppliers, due to availability. All the items offered are passed on to people at Garrison’s cost, and she is a careful and savvy shopper.
“Our menu is posted on Common Grounds Facebook page, but prices are fluctuating because it depends on what our vendor has in stock,” she said. “If they raise prices, we have to pass it on, as we are offering these items to community members at our cost and not making money. There have been people who pick up their food and have left tips, and we have been passing that money forward and sharing it with other groups in order to feed more people in need.”
Garrison said she has always been a strong supporter of food programs in the Valley. She rallied her restaurant suppliers and rallied them very quickly.
“US Foods has been a great supporter,” she said. “Also, Bosch Bakery and Yilbertos restaurant. Anza Gas has been wonderful – without their support we would not be open and able to serve. This is a huge community effort; it’s not just the suppliers. Our customers are getting the word out and supporting our cart, so we can stay open. All the volunteers that are coming and giving their time are amazing.”
Common Grounds also serves a fresh takeout meal such as spaghetti and meatballs and beef stroganoff, complete with side dishes. These dinners are $10 each.
“I have plenty of good stuff being said on Facebook! God always seems to use us in ways that we don’t always understand, or don’t always expect, but we are grateful to be a vessel in the ultimate journey. There’s a lot of people in this community that have asked to volunteer to drive boxes of food to others and to deliver hot food or pickup medications down the hill. It’s just another example of how this community works together in times of need. My personal mission
statement is ‘I bring people together to creative positive outcomes,’” she said.
To learn more or order supplies, contact Robyn Garrison at (805) 312-0369 and visit the Common Grounds Facebook page at www.facebook.com/commongroundscoffeecart to view available choices.
Diane Sieker can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.