Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Weekly breakfast helps define a community

The No Strings Attached Breakfast in Half Moon Bay is an institution of the quietest but most significant kind.

It's a true community breakfast that has run for 19 years without missing a single day, said a key participant for the last 16 of those years. Meals are simple but hot and consist of food donated by a wide array of local businesses. All are welcome and the breakfast serves as a gathering place for rich and poor alike, as well as one of the only reliable hot meals for the Coastside's homeless population.

But charity is not the point for those involved, participants say. Organizers ask not to be named in association with the meal, and there is no hierarchy or formal structure to volunteer efforts. People who want to help just show up when they can, just like those who come for the food.

The philosophy is simple: The community serves and the community eats - together.

"We're not doing anything to help the needy," said one longtime participant who would only speak of the breakfasts as long as the Review granted him anonymity. "All we're doing is setting an environment where the community can come together and have a nice meal and be nice to each other. If we wanted to do something to help the needy we would do something else, because it's just one breakfast."

But other aspects have grown up along the years. The breakfast celebrated 100,000 meals served back in 2001 and now feeds 200 to 300 people a week. There is a monthly food giveaway of about 300 parcels and a Christmas distribution of toys, complete with Santa Claus. Donated clothes are often available from local outlets as well.

But the breakfast remains the central focus - as does the guarantee that it will always be there.

"You want to let people know that every Saturday you will be there," said the participant. "It's like having a business: You set the hours of the business and then people can depend on it."

Four men started the breakfast 19 years ago. It has run for the last 16 years under the umbrella of Senior Coastsiders. Those close to the tradition say hundreds of people are involved each week to make the event, but that the support of Cara Schmaljohn, executive director of Senior Coastsiders, has made it all possible.

Schmaljohn deflects that praise to one of the steady crew of volunteers who, characteristically, refused to be named.

"He's one of the quiet, unsung heroes of our community," Schmaljohn said of the man. "He never misses a Saturday. And, at the end of every Saturday, he'll drive out in his car to the ranches and give the extra food to the people who couldn't come to the breakfast, so none of it goes to waste," she added.

"He does this with basically no budget," said Schmaljohn.

Volunteers for the breakfast include students from high schools all over the Bay Area performing community services, and no one is tied down to any length of service or specific role, say those involved. Local advocates say the service is vital.

"We have no homeless facilities - there's absolutely nothing," said Cheri Parr, the former head of Coastside Hope. "And no cooked meals aside from what the senior center provides. That breakfast is often the only hot meal they get."

No money is ever allowed to change hands on the day, say organizers. Donations for the breakfast must be made directly to Senior Coastsiders. This year, more toys than ever are needed, and donations for the Christmas giveaway should be directed to Senior Coastsiders as well.

As for volunteers, there's only one way to join.

"We've never had a meeting in 18 years," said a longtime participant. "It's extremely unusual. I came in the same way other people come in: I walked in and said, 'Hey, can I help?'"

The No Strings Attached Breakfast begins preparation every Saturday at 6:30 a.m. at the Ted Adcock Community/Senior Center at 535 Kelly Ave. Food is served at about 10 a.m. and cleanup begins at 11 a.m. Senior Coastsiders can be reached at 726-9056.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

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Council discusses multimillion-dollar judgment for first time

Thursday, November 29, 2007 5:41 PM PST

Members of the Half Moon Bay City Council and about a dozen concerned citizens crammed into a back room of City Hall Thursday evening to discuss a $36 million judgment against the city that has far reaching ramifications for city finances and California coastal development.

Crab are clean, governor ends closure

Thursday, November 29, 2007 4:46 PM PST

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday called off the crab fishing ban that has been in effect for the past three weeks. Early test results from the California Department of Fish and Game indicate that Dungeness crab in local waters do not bear petroleum poisoning as a consequence of the Nov. 7 Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay.

HMB loses multimillion-dollar judgment, calls meeting at City Hall

Thursday, November 29, 2007 2:33 PM PST

The Half Moon Bay City Council will meet in a special closed session today at City Hall, 501 Main St. Public remarks are scheduled at 5 p.m. before the council retires behind closed doors to discuss a potentially crippling land-use judgment that could run well in excess of the $36.7 million judgment. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the meeting would be held at the Ted Adcock Community /Senior Center.

San Benito House sold

Thursday, November 29, 2007 10:45 AM PST

Restaurateur Franco Carrubba has bought another downtown Half Moon Bay landmark - Main Street's San Benito House.

Fishing boat sinks off Pigeon Point

Thursday, November 29, 2007 10:23 AM PST

A 35-foot commercial fishing vessel, the Lou Denny Wayne, hit the rocks at 1:15 a.m. Thursday about one mile south of Pigeon Point. U.S. Coast Guard and San Mateo County Sheriff's personnel rescued the boat's only two passengers, neither of whom reported any injuries.

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