Oct 1 2020
For years, the people who run Abundant Grace Coastside Worker have dreamed of physical space. The hope was to design a center that would provide all the services a person needed to get back on their feet and successfully get – and keep – a job.
This dream of a workforce development center began to come true in January, when the nonprofit finalized the purchase of the building located at 515 Kelly Ave. in a building that was once the Senior Coastsiders Thrift Store.
Since then, the space has begun to serve some of the functions identified long ago but which have been delayed without a physical building to anchor the organization. And recently, on September 17, Abundant Grace was granted the necessary permits to begin renovations that will allow the center to provide the additional basic amenities it originally envisioned. Soon there will be a place to shower, store valuables, do laundry and receive mail.
“It’s a small house, but it’s perfect for the number of people we serve,” said
Eric DeBode, Executive Director of Abundant Grace. “We could do the things that people have been asking for years. “
Having the physical space already addressed several needs that the nonprofit couldn’t when it was operating from a van, as it once did. This year, people were able to reliably receive their San Mateo County health insurance cards. Three people opened bank accounts this year.
The renovations will respond to needs that had not yet been met. Two showers will replace the outdoor shower tent in the backyard. Two sets of washers and dryers will be installed. Two bathrooms will replace the one that currently serves the ten people who pass through the center daily. And an outdoor space will be set up as a comfortable meeting place for participants in the preparation for employment program, the main service of the organization.
Every day, more than a dozen people gather in the morning before heading to one of two work options: helping the Potrero Nuevo farm or cleaning up the coastal path. Each participant in these employment preparation programs receives an allowance of $ 50 for every three hours of work performed. About 70 people participate in the program each year.
One recent afternoon, Ethan, 30, returned from cleaning up the coastal path. Back at the Abundant Grace building, he helped pack the freshly harvested produce that the farm work crew harvested earlier today. Ethan requested that his last name not be used.
“So many people depend on this place,” he said. “We depend on it.”
Ethan said the preparation for employment program allowance helps supplement the money he earns through short-term jobs. All in all, he was able to pay rent in a place he recently found with his girlfriend, after months of living out of his car. Trained in the culinary arts, he is actively seeking employment in his field with the help of the staff at Abundant Grace.
Renovation plans were postponed during the first months of the pandemic. The permit application process was slowed down and DeBode and his team were busy helping run the Coastside Crisis Fund, a local fund formed in response to the sudden need for cash assistance that DeBode helped start.
Since announcing the end of the Coastside Crisis Fund in an August 30 newsletter, DeBode has been able to focus his attention on the center and its upcoming renovations.
A persistent problem since the start of the pandemic that Abundant Grace has continued to tackle is hunger, which is on the rise. Each day, volunteers drop off about 20 sandwiches, along with snacks and drinks, which staff then distribute throughout the day as people pass their heads in need of a meal.
“It’s small, it’s concrete, it’s direct. And it really meets a need, ”he said.
Jamie Laguda Harris, who has been participating in the bridging program for several months, said she has come to depend on the center for her food, especially after the county halted her CalFresh benefits.
Harris was driving south from San Francisco when his car broke down right in front of Abundant Grace, just days after the center opened.
“There aren’t many of us here in Half Moon Bay. We help each other, we share our experiences of unemployment… ”, she declared. “The center has been a great help to us. r