By Mike Kinney
Soulful Softball Sunday, which was formed over five years ago as a fun and purposeful way to bring the community together and to connect residents to resources, hasn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic get in the way of its mission.
Amid the shelter-in-place order, the Soulful Softball Sunday crew has not only joined, but significantly augmented, the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s (WCCUSD) efforts to ensure local students still have access to free meals.
Currently, its crew of volunteers — about 50 strong — are helping to serve 25,000 breakfasts and lunches per week at eight locations, including six churches. The organization is the reason the school district last week announced a significant expansion of meal distribution sites in the community, now totaling 17.
When the WCCUSD first launched its meals program for students while schools were closed, Soulful Softball Sunday co-founder Rodney Alamo Brown lauded the idea as a noble effort. But he said he noticed gaps where students from some schools, such as Peres, Lincoln, Verde and Lake, might lack the transportation to reach the meal sites.
So Brown and Soulful Softball Sunday worked with the school district and local faith organizations to open up new meal distribution sites.
Brown first reached out to WCCUSD Board of Education member Mister Phillips, who connected him with Barbara Jellison, a supervisor at the WCCUSD Nutrition Center at 6th and Bissell. Soulful Softball Sunday also coordinated with Tiffany Bell, senior health education specialist with Contra Costa County, who helps coordinate the lunch program between the district and county.
“Proximity was important in selecting the faith based organizations and the willingness of volunteers also factored into the equation,” Brown said. “Accessibility and consistency has been the focal point of the entire operation.”
Volunteer Bonnie Jackson has acted as a liaison to the community and churches and has been coordinating efforts with Bell, Brown said.
“Bonnie is superwoman, a true angel who has worked feverishly around the clock to ensure sites get their daily servings,” Brown said. “She coordinated the efforts with Tiffany Bell, they both have been superb.”
Soulful Softball Sunday volunteers are helping to serve meals from these school sites daily from from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
- McGlothen Temple COGIC 1443 Fred Jackson Way Richmond.
- Pilgrim Rest MBC 831 So. 43rd Street Richmond.
- GRIP 165 22nd Street Richmond.
- Ephesians COGIC 2887 Foothill Avenue Richmond.
- Sion Miracle Temple COGIC 1320 Sanford Avenue San Pablo.
- Independent Holiness 605 So. 16 Street Richmond.
- Richmond Roadrunners MC 492 A Street Richmond.
- Zion Hill MBC 5150 Bayview Avenue Richmond.
Meanwhile, to-go meals can also be picked up between 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at these initally set-up WCCUSD distribution sites:
- Pinole Valley High School, 2900 Pinole Valley Road, Pinole.
- De Anza High School, 5000 Valley View Road, Richmond.
- Richmond High School, 1250 – 23rd Street, Richmond.
- Kennedy High School, 4300 Cutting Blvd., Richmond.
- Helms Middle School, 2500 Road 20, San Pablo.
- DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave., Richmond.
- Montalvin Elementary School, 300 Christine Drive, San Pablo.
- Riverside Elementary School, 1300 Amador Street, San Pablo.
- Nystrom Elementary School, 230 Harbour Way South, Richmond.
For more info, visit the WCCUSD’s website.