pajaro dinner evacuees flood
Community members prepare a hot dinner for residents of Pajaro who have been under flood evacuation for over a week Sunday night beside the Main Street Bridge in Watsonville. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—Community members are teaming up nightly to serve hot meals to hundreds of residents who are under flood evacuation from the town of Pajaro. 

Since Monday night, starting at 7pm under a tent donated by the community, scores of chefs serve up meals prepared on site of carne asada, tortillas, beans, rice, soup, grilled chicken and more to families, many living in their cars or at relatives’ homes with their kids and the elderly.

“This means so much to us,” said Jose Ververde, who stood in a parking lot after dark surrounded by his family, each eating from paper plates heaped with steaming hot food. “It’s good food—beef and chicken. We can’t go home and we don’t know when we can. I work in Santa Cruz but at night we have no place to go.”

Aileen Hernandez said her mother, Luz Maria, came up with the idea of making meals for people left on the streets by the flood.

“It’s about people helping out, helping people who are sleeping in their cars and those that don’t have enough money to buy food,” she said. “There are some people that are staying at shelters and other places but then there are people on the other side of the bridge in Pajaro who, people don’t realize, aren’t getting enough food and water. People are donating to help. We’re the first people who actually came here and made sure they got food.”

Hernandez said she is seeing donations coming in from around town that include water, tortillas, soup, various meats, beans, rice, vegetables and fruit.

“And people are bringing hot dogs and pizzas for the kids,” she added.

Luz said she knows how it feels to go without food during trying times.

“I know because I’ve been there,” she said. “I knew we had to do something and that started with feeding these people.”

No word has been given as to when folks can return to Pajaro to their homes and belongings. Officials have said there is a four-phase program to make sure homes are safe to re-enter, and that they are currently in the second phase.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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