Government, nonprofits help out
Author: August Howell
Published: January 18, 2023
Magdalena Zavala, an office coordinator at ALAS, passes out vegetables and essential groceries to families in Pescadero on Thursday. Anna Hoch-Kenney/Review
People lined up around the side of Pescadero Elementary School to receive blankets, groceries and a hot meal on Thursday. Many people in the Pescadero area were hit by the rain and flooding in recent days. Anna Hoch-Kenney/Review
There was a long line of people winding around Pescadero Elementary School on Thursday. Many of them shared similar stories.
Amid a series of atmospheric rivers that pummeled the coast for more than a week, many South Coast residents lost power and road access for as long as seven days while storms ravaged their town. For the moment, sunshine finally gave a brief respite for residents to gather much-needed food and supplies at the school courtesy of Ayudando Latinos a Soñar and San Mateo County.
Yesenia Ramirez said the storms knocked out power to her family’s Pescadero home for a week. They spent seven days without electricity. Many of their neighbors were in a similar situation.
“Most of the food expired,” said Itzel Ramirez, Yesenia’s daughter. “And we have a pretty big family, so the fridge was packed.”
Fortunately, the flooding wasn’t too bad by their house, but some water did leak past the sandbags.
“We’re trying to get as much food as we can that’s not an expense for us,” Itzel Ramirez said. “We lost a lot.”
Katherine Rodriguez lives in San Gregorio and works in South San Francisco. She wasn’t able to get to work for the past week due to the weather and road closures. With power flickering off intermittently since New Year’s Eve, her family bought a generator to power the refrigerator. But when the generator broke, all her food spoiled. Through a translator, she explained that she couldn’t afford to buy more food if the power went out or the generator stopped working again.
Antonio Marcello, a Pescadero farmworker, was stuck inside and couldn’t work for five days thanks to the weather. On Thursday, he had his eye on the new blankets. He was fortunate to have running water on his ranch last week, but the lack of heat was a problem. Like so many others, he came to the school to replace the food he’d had to throw out.
Thursday’s outreach event was a collaboration between ALAS and San Mateo County. After multiple consecutive days of flooding and power outages disrupting daily life in Pescadero over the past week, nonprofit leaders reached out to San Mateo County to see what could be done to alleviate some of the strain on South Coast residents. Sandra Sencion, a community program coordinator with ALAS, said 70 families from Pescadero came to Half Moon Bay on Tuesday alone. It was clear where help was needed.
Within 24 hours, the nonprofit and the county had organized and set up hundreds of hot meals, water bottles, blankets and other resources for Pescadero residents. Meanwhile, ALAS staff set up barbecues and free snacks. It was estimated that more than 250
families came to collect supplies on Thursday. Several Pacifica members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volunteered as well. San Mateo County offered 250 meals prepared by the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program, which helps people with disabilities and other barriers to employment, including some who were formerly incarcerated, get job training and re-enter the workforce.
The schoolyard was busy as people wheeled small carts brimming with boxes, blankets and food to and from the overcrowded parking lot.
Emma Gonzales, a co-chair of San Mateo County’s Office of Community Affairs helped coordinate the outreach effort. She noted that the Coastside’s two local radio stations, KDPO and KHMB, helped spread the word about emergency shelters, road closures and weather conditions over the last few weeks in Pescadero and Half Moon Bay.
San Mateo County District 3 Supervisor Ray Mueller joined his staff and handed out vegetables for hours in the schoolyard on Thursday. He said he felt for the underserved community, the families without food who had to buy an expensive generator and the farmers who lost crops and wages. While he was impressed by the quick collaboration between nonprofits and the county, he noted that the South Coast’s fragile infrastructure, including its spotty cellphone coverage, was again exposed by the storms.
“All those limits we had before the storms, they’ve all been exposed by this,” Mueller said. “And with the vulnerable population here, we have to figure out how to fix this.
“The hard structure, we saw a lot of failures, but the people structure has worked really well,” he said. “This community is truly resilient.”