Food Runners

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Six Days a Week

Food Runners volunteer Vivi B. never thought of herself as anything more than an average citizen.  In possession of a halo of white hair, a deep no-nonsense voice and a commanding don't-mess-with-me attitude, Vivi was the stuff of volunteerism legend.  While vehemently eschewing help for herself under any circumstances, she lived to help others. Here's how she did it at Food Runners:  

Vivi's beloved Noe Valley Bakery
Everyone at Noe Valley Bakery knew Vivi. Six days a week, at 8:30AM,  Vivi would park her old beater sedan out front on 24th Street before breezing by the patrons waiting in line for morning muffins and coffee. Six days a week at 8:30AM, Vivi would sail through the shop to the kitchen,  then through the kitchen to the storage area out back, grabbing a cart on the way. Six days a week, Vivi would pile the cart high with knotted bags filled with the day old pastries and bread left there specifically for Food Runners. Once she had the day-olds on the cart, she'd go back through the kitchen retrieving the set-aside-for-Food-Runners cakes and pies that were on or just past their sell-by dates but still beautiful, safe and delicious. When she'd collected all the donations, she'd wheel the cart to her car and load up. The donations often filled the entire trunk and back seat. Six days a week, Vivi drove the goods around town to various agencies feeding the hungry. Agencies like Ozenam Reception Center in SOMA (now closed), Martin DePorres in Potrero, Day Labor in the Mission and the Wednesday Night Supper Program at the Most Holy Redeemer Church in the Castro. Vivi had a different agency for each day of the week, except for any sandwiches included in the donation. The sandwiches always went to Day Labor. Vivi  kept this routine up. Six days a week.  For over twenty years.

Vivi's beloved Day Labor
"I slipped and fell while putting the bags in the car today," came the fateful call one afternoon about three years ago. "I broke my wrist and I can't drive or lift anything for a while. Can you get someone to do my runs?  I'll be back as soon as I can." Vivi tried to come back after her wrist had healed, but being of advanced age, an age she would never reveal, other health issues like unsteadiness on her feet began to take their toll. After her active volunteering days came to an end, Vivi remained a welcome fixture at Food Runners bi-annual, volunteer appreciation parties even though she hated needing a ride  when she was no longer able to drive herself.  It never occurred to her that it was an honor, not a burden,  for her fellow volunteers to escort her to the events.

Giving.  What Vivi liked doing best.
Vivi passed away peacefully on April 17th. Her niece reports that Vivi was almost 90. Vivi would no more allow pictures of herself doing food runs than she would allow herself to be called a hero.  Yet, to those who knew her and were touched by her acts of kindness, Vivi was a hero indeed.  Whenever Food Runners volunteers go out on a run, Vivi is there. Watching and smiling her wry, Vivi smile. Vivi will be forever in our Food Runners hearts. 

Summer is almost here. Are you attending any weddings this summer?  Yacht Club barbecues?  Company picnics?  Ask the caterers what they are doing with the leftovers.  Tell them about Food Runners.  In San Francisco, edible, perishable food need never go to waste.  A pick up and delivery by a smiling Food Runners volunteer is just a phone call away at 415-929-1866.