This article was written by Dylan Howell, a junior at American High School in Fremont and an active participant in local volunteer efforts.
It was an amazing sight seeing the turnout to the 10th Oak Center meal, hosted by BACC volunteers from Alameda County. The Oak Center is a dining hall/community center in Oakland where less fortunate people gather for events and meals. The normal events held at the Oak Center have no comparison to what Alameda goes there to do.
Ten years ago, BACC member Loretta Newman decided that she wanted to give back to the poor community with homemade meals. For the past 10 years, Loretta has hosted holiday meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas. She gathers a group of people to go with her to serve and entertain the guests. What attracts so many people to choose Loretta’s meals? It all has to do with the atmosphere and warmth she brings. Loretta doesn’t just stay in the kitchen the whole day; instead she roams around the hall, conversing with people as they eat.
“It’s an amazing experience to be a part of,” said Daniel Stokes, a BACC volunteer who’s participated in numerous events as of late. “I think the difference between how we do it compared to how other places do it is the interaction. Especially Loretta; she tries to build relationships with the people and not just feed them and then tell them to leave.”
Roughly 500-600 people showed up to receive a meal, which is the largest turnout Newman has ever had; this is due largely in part to the contributions of the volunteers from Alameda County, who ranged from teens, adults, to even kids ages 5 and up. The next day, Loretta was publicly recognized by BACC for her heart and love for people in her community.
“It’s all because of heart,” said community member Deltrina Johnson, who presented her with the award. “We can all take away from this is that all we have to do is have the heart to give, and that’s what Loretta has.”