Well over a year ago, Sage Chavez and Charlene D'Cruz together founded Hearts to End Hunger, with the goal of facilitating a warm meal a day, every day of the year in the Ashland area while reducing food waste.
Chavez and D'Cruz are making plenty of headway towards their goal as last week they kicked off week one of the second year of the 52 for 52 Soup Campaign and they have another free community meal all lined up for this Saturday from 12 to 2 p.m. at the Bretting Community Center.
D'Cruz heads up Hearts to End Hunger’s 52/52-soup program — which they currently run with the aid of Dianne Buelow and the Community Sharing Center at St. Andrews — while Chavez takes care of organizing events like the upcoming Hearts To End Hunger Free Community Taco Feed, which takes place Saturday.
Other Hearts To End Hunger community events Chavez organized have included an awareness benefit, a Soup Feed, an End of Summer Cookout and a Thanksgiving Feast.
Chavez shared what inspired the latest community event.
“Myself and my friend Linda have been doing 365 days of tacos,” she said, explaining that they’ve been making and eating different kinds of tacos everyday since the end of January. “I’ve been doing basically a Facebook blog about it so people kept asking ‘Hey, when are you going to cook us tacos?’ and so I figured it was a good opportunity to do the next Hearts to End Hunger Community Feed.”
Chavez explained that their funds are limited since everything they do is free.
“We rely on donations from community members for the ingredients and also the monetary donations that we get,” she said, adding that they could still use meat donations of ground beef and/or chicken for Saturday’s Taco Feed.
“We’ve had one donation of chicken but I think if we don’t get enough chicken, we’ll just go with the ground beef,” she said.
Chavez said that it’s a leap of faith every time they do an event.
“Hopefully we get enough people to donate ingredients,” she said. “I guess it’s all faith based as far as if we’ll get the ingredients and if people will show up and [when] they do it’s kind of miraculous every time it turns out.”
Chavez said that her friend, DJ Mike, would be playing music and she is working on scheduling some family fun and games. She also noted that some of her friends — who also happen to work at El Dorado – would be helping her with the cooking.
“So the tacos will be authentic Mexican tacos,” she said.
Chavez said the Hearts To End Hunger Free Community Taco Feed is for “Everyone in the community.”
“Just show up if you love hugs and tacos,” she said, adding that it’s a good time to get out of the house and enjoy some tacos and be a community. “Plus this celebrates one year of the 52 to 52.”
D’Cruz estimated that about 450 gallons worth of soup was made and handed out over the first year of the 52 for 52 Soup Campaign.
“That’s a lot for a small community,” she said, adding that she believes the second year is going to be as successful because of how easy the program is.
D’Cruz said that she and Chavez started up the Hearts to End Hunger due to there being a large number of homeless people in the community and no soup kitchen to help them. She said they began by making soup once a month.
“Soon we realized it was a lot of work for two moms to pull off and it was a lot of work to get done just for one day and it was not addressing the needs of the community,” she said.
D’Cruz she wanted to do more and get the community involved in a more active way.
“I thought I’ll organize people to donate once a week and all I’ll need is 52 groups,” she said, explaining that’s how she came up with the 52/52-soup program. “Immediately, I think I had 12 people sign up. That’s 12 weeks, that’s three months. Even now in our second year I’m already booked out till June.”
D’Cruz said long-term goals for Hearts to End Hunger include having a food bus and a permanent soup kitchen.
Chavez said her personal hero is American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez.
“One of his quotes was, ‘The people who give you their food give you their heart,’ and that’s what I truly feel,” she said. “I grew up at a table that was always having new people at it. You never knew who to expect every night and that’s really a good way to expand your horizons and just keep an open mind and an open heart so that’s what I feel like our goal is at Hearts to End Hunger.”
Taco Feed donations can be dropped off at Associated Bank with Chavez or the St. Andrews Church basement with Dianne Buelow. Monetary donations are also accepted. St. Andrews is located on the corner of 3rd and Chapple in Ashland.
D'Cruz requests people contact her or Buelow — at St. Andrew's Church between 12 and 4 p.m. every day — if they know someone who needs a meal or several meals.
For more information on these programs visit Hearts to End Hunger on Facebook.
The Bretting Community Center is located at 400 4th Avenue West in Ashland.