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Hunger Hero: Santos

Hunger Hero: Santos

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank’s largest food distribution program is our network of more than 600 partner agencies and 1,000 distribution sites. These are schools, senior and community centers, churches and pantries. What many people may not know is that most of the coordinators at these locations are unpaid volunteers who put in many hours of work every single week to heal hunger in our community.

Santos Arroyo, 66, is a cook, volunteer and House Manager at The Bible Tabernacle ministry in Venice, California. Like many of our partner agencies, The Bible Tabernacle provides more than food for people in need. They are also a temporary housing facility, supporting families who have sought help as they make new lives for themselves.

There are currently more than 20 families being hosted on site, with 25 children, 4 of whom are newborns. “All boys!” Santos says, smiling widely. “Just in the past couple months we have had 4 babies born.”

Santos is more than a dedicated volunteer. He is someone who is truly able to empathize and understand the stories of those served by the ministry because he once stood in their shoes.

“When I came here the first time I think it was 1986,” he says. “I was having problems with my wife. We separated. I was using drugs at that time and I lost my job. I became homeless.”

Someone told Santos to visit the Bible Tabernacle for help so he did. “I saw how the pastor was treating people so kindly,” he says. “He was like a father to me. I had no father figure in my life.”

The pastor at that time helped Santos get into recovery. When he was ready, he returned to the ministry and has been there ever since. “I want to show others hope,” he said. “I lost my family, but I see the people here as my own kids. All the kids call me ‘grampa’.”

Much of the produce and shelf-stable food products provided at the Bible Tabernacle come from the Food Bank, through the generosity and kindness of individual and corporate donors. “We serve balanced meal,” says Santos. “We make vegetable, a meat like chicken or beef, mashed potatoes, white rice or brown rice, and pastries.”

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In addition to tending to basic needs, Santos values the relationships that he tries to establish with everyone he serves. “When we give the food baskets to people, I ask them, ‘Do you have  a car? Do you have a way to get this home? Do you have a place to cook this item?’ And sometimes the expression in their eyes tells me ‘no,’ and then I try to balance it out with fresh bread, things they can fix even if they don’t have a place to cook.”

“There are too many politics around,” he says. “I wish people would understand that anyone could fall. And it’s hard to get back up–especially if you have children.”

With the support of people like Santos and agencies like The Bible Tabernacle, people are empowered to transform their lives in beautiful ways. They provide tutoring for children, financial advice for working adults, transportation to clinics and other appointments and, perhaps most importantly, they provide hope. “I remind people that whatever happened in the past is in the past,” Santos says. “We rejoice when we see that they really want to get ahead in life.” He beams with fatherly pride as he speaks about two women in particular who are putting themselves through nursing school by night and working by day. “We are making a mark, one person at a time.”

We are inspired by Santos’ dedication to our collection vision that no one goes hungry in Los Angeles.  Thank you Santos.

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