By Kathy Chouteau
The Bay Area Rescue Mission (BARM) started distributing free “boxes of hope” at 8:30 a.m. this morning, stocked with a complete Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, dressing and all the fixings for local families in need. The annual event, which will continue through 3 p.m. this afternoon, will distribute 1,000 holiday dinners as part of a 40-year tradition.
Community members who signed up in advance began lining up at their designated times this morning to progress through the various food stations in BARM’s parking lot. A pregnant mother, the elderly, young children and people with disabilities were spotted among the many people waiting in the crowd.
BARM CEO Bram Begonia said that Richmond Wholesale donated 1,000 turkeys to support the effort “because they love what we do.” He added that by providing Thanksgiving dinners for families in need, the BARM looks to help “take that burden or pressure off” of families who otherwise might have to choose between celebrating the holiday or paying the bills. “And hopefully you can spend the funds saved from this to do something else to bless your family,” said Begonia.
Intermittently throughout the event, Begonia took time to address the waiting crowd with words of encouragement to have hope that they can prevail over life’s challenges.
A significant part of the BARM’s work is helping people navigate life’s most arduous difficulties. Begonia underscored that, while they provide food and shelter to people experiencing homelessness, they also “help anybody in any circumstance who needs help”—whether it’s a domestic violence situation, substance abuse, a mental health diagnosis, food insecurity or whatever it may be. “Our theme is love without limits,” he said.
And while the BARM may not be able to directly serve everyone who seeks their assistance, Begonia said they have a vast referral system of “partners in the continuum of care in Contra Costa County” to help point people in the right direction.
Begonia underscored the demand for their services by noting that, pre-pandemic, the BARM was providing 58,000 meals per month—and that, during the pandemic, that amount has increased to almost 110,000 meals. The organization’s other work includes the near-completion of its “Bridge of Hope” project—a brand new, $6 million building located behind its shelter that will open in the next two months. “It’s another 114 beds for women and children—that’s the most vulnerable population on the streets,” said Begonia.
Begonia said that the rescue mission’s transformative work is made possible through the generosity of everyday folks since BARM doesn’t accept any City, County or Federal funding so that they can run the programs as they wish by preaching the gospel of Jesus. He said that the BARM stays in business “because people love what we do and they send a check for $25.”
The BARM is located at 2114 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond. To support the nonprofit’s work with a donation, or to learn more about it, click here.