In the 34 years since it was created, Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes has served hot lunches to hundreds of people and provided food and household goods from its pantry. Roughly 10,000 people receive help every year.
This includes holidays and during times of crisis, said Executive Director Ashley Bridges.
“During the pandemic, we did not close our doors once,” she said. “We stayed open, and that’s a theme with our organization. We are there to help people.”
When the Pajaro River Levee breached and flooded the town of Pajaro early in 2023, Loaves and Fishes went from serving about 100 hot lunches per day to more than 700, an effort that included bringing the meals directly to the residents, Bridges said.
And when this slowed down, fuel costs started to rise along with inflation, she said.
“It’s been a nonstop year of trials for the people we serve,” Bridges said.
More than 600 families came for a recent Thanksgiving distribution, even as hundreds signed up for a similar one for Christmas.
“We’re a small organization, but we feed a lot of people and we do the best we can,” Bridges said.
All of this is coupled with a nationwide food shortage for food banks nationwide, she said.
“I think it’s a special place,” Bridges said. “Everyone wants to be there to help people and provide food, and I personally enjoy working there.”
Volunteer Michelle Bagley, who has been working at Loaves and Fishes since March, says it has given her a sense of purpose since her retirement.
“We work hard, and we have a good time and we take care of each other,” she said.
For information, visit pvloavesandfishes.org.
This year, Loaves and Fishes is joining 64 other organizations in Santa Cruz Gives, the largest countywide fundraising campaign in support of local nonprofits.
Fundraising opened Nov. 15 and runs through Dec. 31. To donate, visit santacruzgives.org.
Santa Cruz Gives is funded by the Good Times, Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, Applewood Foundation, Joe Collins, Driscoll’s, Inc., Comcast, Monterey Peninsula Foundation, Santa Cruz County Bank, Wynn Capital Management, The Pajaronian and Press Banner.
Santa Cruz Gives participating organizations
Amah Mutsun Land Trust
Arts Council Santa Cruz County
Association of Faith Communities
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Cruz County
Black Surf Santa Cruz
Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Cruz County
CASA of Santa Cruz County
Center for Farmworker Families
Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley
County Park Friends
Coastal Watershed Council
Dientes Community Dental Care
Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County
Dominican Hospital Foundation
Encompass Community Services – Si Se Puede
Esperanza Community Farms
Farm Discovery at Live Earth
Friends of Santa Cruz Public Libraries
Habitat for Humanity
Health Projects Center
Homeless Garden Project
Hospice of Santa Cruz County
Live Like Coco
Mentors Driving Change for Boys, Men and Dads
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte
Pajaro Valley Loaves & Fishes
Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance
Pajaro Valley Shelter Services
Queer Youth Task Force
Regeneración—Pajaro Valley Climate Action
Santa Cruz Children’s Museum of Discovery
Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
Santa Cruz Shakespeare
Santa Cruz SPCA and Humane Society
Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter Foundation
Santa Cruz Welcoming Network
Second Harvest Food Bank
Senior Network Service
Save Our Shores
Seymour Marine Discovery Center
Sustainable Systems Research Foundation
Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center
Teen Kitchen Project
United Way of Santa Cruz County
Vets 4 Vets Santa Cruz
Village Santa Cruz County
Walnut Avenue Family & Women’s Center
Wings Homeless Advocacy
Watsonville Wetlands Watch