Fallbrook businesses pull together to serve the community

Foundation for Senior Care driver Maria Fajardo makes a delivery of groceries to a Fallbrook senior resident, April 20. The Fallbrook Regional Healthcare District has helped fund staff drivers to make deliveries to seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Village News/Shane Gibson photo

The Fallbrook business community is pulling together during the pandemic, working to meet needs as they come up.

The Fallbrook Health District has been helping people find the resources they need to keep going and maintain stability.

“We’ve identified five different nonprofits that are doing direct service support to our community, and we’re providing them some additional funding and coordination of community produce donations,” Rachel Mason, executive director of the Fallbrook Health District, said.

They’ve been able to help the Boys and Girls Club, the local food pantry, the Foundation for Senior Care, Fallbrook Senior Center and Michelle’s Place out of Temecula that also serves some of the Fallbrook community as a cancer resource center.

For the Foundation of Senior Care, the Fallbrook Health District has provided the funding they need to keep their drivers on staff so that they could do home deliveries of groceries and food to homebound seniors and the disabled community.

With the Boys and Girls Club, the health district helped to redirect its staff to work at the local food pantry. The food pantry relies on volunteers, most of whom are seniors who aren’t supposed to be volunteering right now, Mason said.

The health district is funding the extra expenses and challenges that the Fallbrook Senior Center has come up against as they work on delivering meals to senior homes.

Since the Fallbrook Health District is more of a resource center, they didn’t have a lot of medical supplies when COVID-19 started becoming more apparent, Mason said.

“Our district helps to underwrite the expanded hours at our local urgent care,” Mason said. “Our urgent care was able to give us some masks and some gloves, which we knew we’d run out of, but we were able to kind of help marshal the call to the community to help make a lot of masks.”

Fallbrook Health District asked the community to donate homemade masks to help those at the nonprofits they’re helping.

“Through one of our umbrella organizations, we were connected with a group that was able to donate face shields,” Mason said. “I’ve got 600 face shields coming, but they’re not here yet.”

She said the district plans to distribute some to their nonprofit workers, and if they have some left, the shields will go to medical personnel and other service workers, such as the local fire district.

While the Fallbrook Health District helps nonprofit organizations, they don’t work with for-profit businesses other than providing a list of businesses that are still open.

Fallbrook business owner Carlo Fernando Guardado opened his restaurant Small Town in July 2019. Born in Fallbrook, Guardado moved back with his family, who now helps him with the business.

Small Town recreates different menu items each week and only provides locally sourced food for their customers.

“I spend about 20 to 30 hours a week running around to different farms, picking up all of our local produce,” Guardado said. “The emphasis is everything local, everything sustainable, everything organic and really trying to connect our diners with the farms and the farm life around here.”

The shutdown hasn’t affected Guardado’s ability to receive local goods and produce from farms; however, Guardado said he had quite a few events lined up in the weeks leading up to the shutdown that were canceled.

“We were going to be donating our time to Mama’s Kitchen, we were going to be headlining at the Chef’s Gala at the San Diego Food Bank, we had the Avocado Festival and a couple other nonprofit events that we’d be volunteering for,” Guardado said.

Eventually, they started seeing in-house parties of 10 or more dropping out, and that was when Guardado knew things were starting to get bad.

“Before the shutdown even happened, we were kind of bracing for something,” he said. “We started doing meal prep, and we had a lot of people that we reached out to right away to let them know that we could get meals for them.”

Faro Trupiano, a Fallbrook resident who owns Trupiano’s Italian Bistro and 127 West Social House, has felt the effects of the shutdown differently between both restaurants.

“My Italian restaurant already had an established to-go business,” Trupiano said. “The effects have been less.”

He said 127 West Social House’s business was hit harder.

“I created an awesome dine-in ambiance, and so now to get people to kind of move over to to-go only has really affected it,” Trupiano said. “I’m operating at maybe 40% of what I used to do.”

Trupiano said he has been getting up each day trying to figure out new ways of bringing people in through social media and promos. They also just recently went live with online ordering.

“If you don’t offer delivery, then at least they want to be able to order online and pay online,” Trupiano said. “We’ve implemented a curbside pickup where we are taking the food to the customers car and that’s it, they’re on their way.”

They’re also working to minimize person-to-person contact as well as handling money or credit cards in addition to gloves and masks, sanitizing everything and keeping up with it.

Both Trupiano and Guardado said they have had great responses from the Fallbrook community.

“With the coronavirus, we’re struggling a little bit, but the Fallbrook community has been amazing,” Trupiano said. “They’re extra generous when leaving gratuities. They’ve just been great; the support has been awesome.”

Trupiano has had customers drop off masks for the workers. Guardado added that the community has come to him and asked if they need anything, asking what they can do to help.

For Mason, watching a community like Fallbrook, which is an unincorporated area and may not have as many resources as a regular city does, is a tribute to their long-standing history of helping others the best they can.

“It’s a great little community. They’ve got some pretty strong grit,” Mason said. “They’ll figure it out and solve it themselves, and that’s what we’re all trying to work toward right now.”

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.