Aptos Natural Foods Community Connection: Grey Bears


Aptos Natural Foods had the great pleasure of speaking to Grey Bears Operations Manager & Volunteer Coordinator Grace Mora on January 2. Grace is a recent college grad who has been working at Grey Bears for five months. She tells us that many volunteers accurately joke with her that they have been volunteering with Grey Bears since before she was born. This does not phase her. She loves coming to work and feeling the love and gratitude of volunteers and clients alike. It's important work and gives her a sense of accomplishment. She loved working in a non-profit setting before and was excited to have the opportunity to continue doing so when this job became available.

Grey Bears was conceived of in 1973 as a final project by UCSC student Kristina Mailliard. By 1975, they were delivering weekly meals to housebound seniors. By 2015, they were named by the Aptos County Chamber of Commerce as the Organization of the Year.

If you're looking for a way to give back to the community this year, there is a lot you can do through Grey Bears! Grey Bears can always use both volunteers and donations, which you can make online, or by mailing or by check). To learn more and get involved, the best way is to start with a tour of the facilities, at 2710 Chanticleer Avenue in Santa Cruz. Tours take place every Wednesday at 1pm. Grace will personally lead the tour. If you have a group, such as a company or school group, who cannot come at this time, Grace would be happy to personally arrange a tour at an alternate time. She can be reached by calling (831) 479-1055 ext. 241, or emailing: grace@greybears.org.

Grey Bears has three main areas: the food distribution program, the Thrift Store, and the Recycling Center. Aptos Natural Foods' new Perishable Manager, Lana, recently signed up ANF to donate food to Grey Bears (in addition to Western Service Workers), and it makes us very happy to be able to do so!

Volunteers can have a great range of tasks depending on their area/s of interest. Mostly volunteers get on-the-job training, sometimes paired with a more experienced volunteer or employee depending on the complexity of the tasks. Currently, Grey Bears has approximately 800 volunteers per year. Many of these are temporary volunteers, such as students doing community service projects. They have between 200 and 300 regular volunteers, some of whom have been volunteering for 30 years! On Thursday and Friday mornings, they use 40-50 volunteers to put together some 3,800+ bags for distribution to seniors across the county, from Watsonville to Davenport/Bonny Doon. If you want to volunteer, it's great if you can commit to one shift per week or more, but volunteers give as much as 25 hours a week and as little as 4 hours a month. They are very flexible and will work with you to help you help them!

They have volunteers who cook food, clean up, and run the thrift store and recycling center. Their thrift store is open every day, Monday-Sunday, from 10am-3pm. Donations are graciously accepted, and sales help support their programs, as well as keeping used goods out of landfills! In addition to the regular thrift store, there is a computer/electronics store and a bookstore!

Another way that Grey Bears raises funds and helps with reducing waste, is through their recycling program! Not only do they recycle electronics and other recyclables, they also compost. You can buy compost, or even just compost worms, from them to make your garden healthier and support their programs.

Whatever else you have planned for your 2020, stop by Grey Bears and learn about this special local organization. If you are inspired to donate your time there, you might make some new friends and get a warm fuzzy feeling! They also have an excellent website!

Needless to say, if you or anyone you know is in need of this kind of assistance, please call Grey Bears to find out how to sign up for services!

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