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A Brand New Year

posted Jan 21, 2021, 1:13 PM by Kristin Snell   [ updated Jan 21, 2021, 1:19 PM ]

by Diana Pasquini, San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center

Just when it seemed as if 2020 would never end it finally passed, “not with a bang but a whimper,” into the murky annals of history. Although it seemed as though no year could bring such turmoil and travail as did 2020, 2021 is doing its best to keep up with its progenitor. Only one week into this spanking new year demonstrates that 2021 has definitely started with a bang, and a big one at that!

Already a year fraught with changes, not all of them have been unwelcome. Although experiencing a drier winter than normal, we denizens of the Sierra foothills can breathe more easily as another grave fire season is behind us. Fields and meadows are greening up nicely. Ponds are slowly refilling and puddles dot the landscape. The earth is softer underfoot. The winter holidays behind us, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief, albeit a brief one, before striking out into a world unknown and a path untrodden as we welcome a new year.

The pandemic has been a catalyst for change at the San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center. Since last spring we have adapted and re-adapted to an ever-changing list of mandates and precautions while trying to remain sensitive to the needs of our community. Balancing need and caution we have reworked ways of delivering services, namely distributing food and clothing, to our community.

Twin Ridges Elementary School District has generously made the old Oak Tree Kitchen available for use as a new and improved food pantry. For years the Oak Tree kitchen was filled with mouth-watering aromas of freshly baked bread and granola bars, simmered soups and stews, roasted chicken and pasta casseroles to serve to generations of hungry school children. When the student population was moved to Grizzly Hill the kitchen fell into disuse. For several years it sat unused, then experienced a renaissance as local entrepreneurs used it as a place to make organic fudge, hummus, salsa, pesto, jams, pickles and other value-added foods for market. One by one, the entrepreneurs moved elsewhere, leaving the little kitchen empty for years.

Enter the San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center. For close to a decade, the FRC had been using a small closet-sized space on the Oak Tree Campus as a food pantry. From that tiny space we were able to feed our community with an abundance of foods donated by the Food Bank of Nevada County, local farmers, and goodhearted friends and neighbors. Concurrently, we stopped delivering services because of covid19 and the destruction of the pantry’s metal door by a mysterious vandal. Although the door was eventually replaced, we had begun thinking that the time might be right to move into a larger space that afforded more food storage. At their spring board retreat, the Twin Ridges School Board of Trustees, with the support of District Superintendent Melissa Madigan, generously extended permission to use the kitchen as a new and improved food pantry for the San Juan Ridge.

With the great help of NCSOS’s Laura Harter, a request for grant monies from Nevada County’s Covid Relief Fund was made. Once the funds were received, we were able to set to work. Contractor Ed Acosta made some badly needed repairs to the building’s ceiling. Firefighter/groundskeeper, Shawn Olson pressure washed the roof and exterior walls of the little building and relocated our major appliances. Jess Nix raked a perimeter around the building and removed loads of oak leaves. Sunshine Bender and Jessica Martines hauled truckloads of trash, including a broken refrigerator, from the site. Cleaner Christiana Stroud made the place shine. With the magic of paint, Kristin and Diana have transformed drab brown interior walls to a lovely shade of blue.

We opened the OAK TREE PANTRY on Tuesday, January 19th. We plan to be open for food distribution 10am-2pm Tuesdays and Thursdays. Patrons will be unable to enter the pantry, but will be invited to select foods from a menu posted on the exterior of the building. Nevada County’s Food Bank will continue to distribute groceries at the Oak Tree site on the second Tuesday of every month, 10am-noon. During the Food Bank’s monthly drive-thru distributions, the Oak Tree Pantry will not be open as parking will not be available at that time.

In addition to opening a new and improved food pantry we will be opening a new and improved clothes closet. Operating during the same hours as the food pantry, Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am-2pm, the Clothes Closet has also expanded into a bigger space. Originally designed for use as a school library, the room was also used for years as a classroom, then by the FRC as a games room and Art Camp’s music room. Now the room is filled with gently used clothing for every member of the family. We especially have LOTS of beautiful clothes for babies.

We were hoping to have a grand opening, complete with refreshments, speeches and balloons, but gala openings have fallen victim to the pandemic. For now, we will do our best to feed and clothe our community and save the speeches and balloons for later. We will continue to do our best adapt to changing circumstances while keeping the needs of the San Juan Ridge Community foremost in our plans.

We are grateful to Ed Acosta, Sunshine Bender, Malik Goodman, Laura Harter, Hilary Hulteen, Rachel Koslowski, Melissa Madigan, Jessica Martines, Nicole McNeely, Kelly Moreno, Mindi Morton, Jess Nix, Shawn Olson, Sarah Sparks, Christiana Stroud, Lorean Whitestone, the Food Bank of Nevada County, Nevada County Relief Fund, Nevada County Superintendent of Schools, and Twin Ridges Elementary School District for their encouragement, help and support. They will be most welcome to share in refreshments, speeches and balloons when the big day comes!

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