This month, we are featuring CALL Primrose, an organization showing a passion for helping their local community, and one that is dependable and always willing to step up when called upon. CALL Primrose was the recipient of the Inspirational Leadership Award at our 2018 Harvest of Knowledge Conference.

“In times of emergency, such as a partner Community Center burning down the morning of a Brown Bag distribution, CALL Primrose jumped into action and opened their doors to Second Harvest Food Bank to distribute food to clients who would have otherwise gone without food. CALL Primrose also added afternoon and evening distribution hours to accommodate clients who work during the day, and expanded their service area to help clients anywhere from San Carlos, all the way to Millbrae. Their willingness to think outside the box to be able to serve more people has not gone unnoticed. Their dependability and flexibility are true marks of an exceptional organization,” said Whitney Genevro, Second Harvest Food Bank Partnership Manager, at the conference.

We recently got the chance to interview Terri Boesch, CALL Primrose Executive Director.

Terri Boesch (left), CALL Primrose Executive Director, with Supervisor Dave Pine (right), at the CALL Primrose “Brunch in the Garden” in June 2018

Terri, tell us about CALL Primrose.

CALL Primrose began in 1983 as a telephone hotline co-founded by the United Methodist and First Presbyterian Churches of Burlingame.

What started as an information and referral service call-in number is now a drop-in food pantry that provides grocery assistance to families and individuals in need. We are located in Burlingame and serve residents of the Mid-Peninsula Cities of San Bruno through San Carlos.

CALL Primrose services focus on low-income individuals and families, including seniors and those who are currently in transition or homeless. We welcome anyone in need of grocery assistance!

What are some of CALL Primrose’s key initiatives right now?

We are currently providing extra support to our clients through our “Kids Helping Kids” summer lunch program to ensure that kids who depend on free lunches throughout the school year have enough to eat over the summer when school is not in session. Through this initiative, we provide extra bags of groceries to families with kids, so that the family is able to enjoy meals together during summer time.

Student volunteers put these bags together for other kids, which provides them with an opportunity to learn about local hunger and enables them to make an immediate impact. They also realize that we can’t always tell who is hungry, and anyone, including their friends, could be experiencing food insecurity.

We launched another initiative to raise client awareness about the services we offer, through a year-long ad campaign running in Spanish and English at the DMV. We have had success to date, with several new client families coming to our center as a result of having seen the ads.

CALL Primrose became an independent 501c3 in 2016, and in order to remain financially sound, we have expanded our fundraising programs. We just held our first donor event, “Brunch in the Garden” in June.

Another current component of our summer fundraising efforts is our “Summer Match” campaign. From June through August, all eligible donations made to CALL Primrose will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Kruttschnitt Charitable Foundation.

When did you start partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank and how do you collaborate with us?

We have been one of Second Harvest Food Bank’s community pantries for over 20 years!

We order [food] once a week through Second Harvest Food Bank’s online ordering system. The system is easy to use and displays all items that are available. Our pantry assistant here at CALL runs an inventory each Friday, and I place an order for needed items by the following Tuesday.  The order arrives on Thursday… It is great to be able to choose the items we want as well as the number of cases needed.

We also connect our clients to Second Harvest Food Bank representatives to see if they’re eligible for the CalFresh program.

We are reliant on Second Harvest to be able to do what we do on a daily basis: they provide us with the bulk of what we distribute. If Second Harvest Food Bank wasn’t there, we couldn’t remain a reliable source of weekly groceries. Second Harvest Food Bank makes it possible for us to say to our clients: “Don’t worry, pay your rent first, we will help you with the rest.”

Without Second Harvest Food Bank, there would be significantly more hunger in the area, as the awareness level would not be nearly as high as.

You were the recipient of the 2018 Inspirational Leadership Awards at the Harvest of Knowledge Conference. Did you enjoy the event?

Yes, it was very energizing to have so many people doing what we do gather in the same place.

There’s always something new to be learned! One of my key take-always was something I learned during one of the breakouts sessions which focused on handling clients with dignity. Tiffany Tedesco, Second Harvest Food Bank Regional Program Manager, was the presenter and commented that when someone thanks her for help with groceries her response is, “Thank you for coming.” I had never thought about it before. It is very simple, yet it makes a huge difference in the client’s experience. You don’t necessarily want to say, “See you next week,” because we don’t want to make the assumption that they will be needing to use our services forever.

We now have our volunteers say, “Thank you for coming,” to each of our clients and we have provided them with translations in 7 different languages!

By thanking our clients for coming, they have an opportunity to say, “You’re welcome.” This allows them to leave without feeling indebted to us.

I am humbled every day by the people who come to our organization and are doing what needs to be done to ensure the well-being of their families.

Terri (left), receiving the 2018 Inspirational Leadership Award at the Harvest of Knowledge Conference

What do you like best about Second Harvest Food Bank?

Second Harvest Food Bank provides peace of mind, in knowing that I can count on them. All Second Harvest Food Bank staff I’ve been in contact with have been supportive and very helpful. We especially love the drivers! We are so grateful to all staff for what they provide to us.

I really hope everybody supports Second Harvest Food Bank. Anything positive that happens to them will positively impact us. Both of our organizations want the same thing: to provide support to those in our community who need a little extra looking after!