SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Over the course of 2020, coronavirus has increased need for food and shelter throughout the Bay Area. On Thanksgiving Day, it also complicated efforts to provide help to those who need it.
“I was executive director with Hyatt Hotels for food and beverage,” said Reynolds Stewart, food and service manager for City Team in San Jose. “Eventually, I saw a need. I always wanted to help mend and feed the community, so I took this position.”
After 25 years in the traditional hospitality industry, Stewart shifted focus to guests who cannot pay. This is now his twelfth year serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless and Thursday evening’s meal was like none other.
“It’s a COVID-19 Thanksgiving,” he said. “And what a COVID-19 Thanksgiving means is we had to use our imagination.”
Much like the restaurant industry, Stewart and his City Team staff had to pivot from dine-in to take-out for as many as 500 people.
“We are the hot meal unit,” Stewart says. “And we can’t stray too far from our kitchen and still have a hot meal.”
“Due to Covid, I’ve been laid off since March,” explained Alexia, who was waiting in line for a dinner. “So I’ve just been trying to find a job ever since.”
“I have not been able to go back to my full-time job or either of my two part-time jobs,” said Alva Long.
Many of those who came for a warm meal say this is the year that brought on their hardship. The virus has both complicated this annual meal and increased the need for it.
“It means for me to feel hope, to feel support, to feel love,” Alexia said of the meal. “Honestly, sometimes I feel like I don’t have a place to go.”
“I’m grateful to even have this and still have my car to sleep in,” Long said. “I have a blanket and I have a good heater so I still feel very blessed. There are people far worse off than me so believe me I’m not complaining. I’ll get through this somehow, we’ve all got to work together, and I’m grateful to organizations like City Team.”