Vallejo Outreach exceeds expectations as 2000 pairs of shoes, backpacks handed out

The Vallejo Times-Herald
by Richard Freedman

Pastor Scott Peterson has been air traffic control of Vallejo Outreach for 26 years.

Every year, he expects glitches. Lo and behold, it didn’t happen Saturday. Not for parents grateful their kids have new shoes, backpacks and haircuts. Not for adults getting free cholesterol and blood glucose screening.

Oh, sure, the company hired for a few of those bounce houses for kids canceled at the last minute.

A forgivable sin, especially from the senior pastor at The Hill Vallejo. Besides, another company came through.

A mild bump on an 83-degree day when 2,000 pairs of new shoes and 800 back packs were distributed, 150 haircuts were done, and an estimated 25 pairs of free eye-glass orders taken.

And everyone got a free lunch.

“I think it’s fantastic. This is beyond our wildest dreams with an exclamation point,” said Peterson, figuring around 3,000 attended the annual event at Service Club Park at the waterfront.

“It’s a great turnout,” Peterson said.

With so many in the community winding around a line starting at 9 a.m. for the 11 a.m. start for free shoes and backpacks, “I’ve learned that it’s very expensive to live in the Bay Area and people really appreciate all the help they’re getting preparing their children for a new year,” Peterson said.

The pastor wasn’t only thrilled with the public’s turnout, but also with the 300 volunteers, many wearing FOR VALLEJO T-shirts.

“People want to help; people want to serve,” Peterson said. “People understand the need and they want to step up and do something. They want to contribute to the community.”

Parents were obviously grateful.

“This means a lot,” said lifetime Vallejoan Gina Williams, thrilled her nephew was able to snag shiny gold Nikes.

“It helps a lot of low income families that can’t afford to get their kids backpacks and all that stuff,” Williams continued. “And it brings the community together.” 

Jasmin Garcia, a 15-year Vallejoan, was equally pleased, thrilled her kids received free shoes and backpacks.

“It’s a blessing,” she said of the Outreach.

Williams said she utilized the dental, vision and hair-cutting services.

“Everything that’s offered here, I’m going to take advantage of,” Williams said. “I’ve been here every year and I spread the word, especially to the ones I know who really need the help. I love my city.”

It was no big deal for barber Marcus Chenz to make the trek from Concord to volunteer his talents. 

“I love the kids. They’re the future,” Chenz said. “You’ve got to make sure they look good. Presentation gives them confidence and helps build character. Take care of our kids and we have a bright future for ourselves.”

Chenz only wishes a professional barber offered free haircuts when he was a kid.

“My dad cut my hair for many years and I wasn’t happy,” Chenz said, eventually learning the trade by cutting his own hair.

“I was my first guinea pig,” he said.

Chenz was proud to be among about 10 other professionals donating their hair-cutting talents Saturday.

“A lot of people are less fortunate,” he said.

It was the first Vallejo Outreach for Vision to Learn, which offers free eye-glasses to kids. Program assistant Sharifa Taylor figured she and optometrist Kristen White would fit 25 kids with new eye-wear by the end of the four-hour event. Kids who need glasses get them sent to their homes after the prescription is filled.

Some parents have a hard time believing their child can get free glasses, “that’s why we have information in different languages,” Taylor said. Touro University on Mare Island sent at least a dozen students to the Outreach with adults getting free cholesterol and blood glucose screenings and tables set up for those needing hands-on diagnostic treatment. One visitor worked on for 10 minutes walked out happy to be able to move his neck properly and pain free, said Melissa Pearce, assistant professional of osteopathic manipulative medicine at Touro.

Others were grateful to get the free screenings and learned as much about Touro students as the students learned about the public, said Rolly Kali-Rai, assistant professional of pharmacy medicine at the university.

“Most important is that they’re here to serve the community,” Kali-Rai said, acknowledging that many of the impromptu patients couldn’t afford to pay for the screenings at a regular doctor’s office.

“Unfortunately in this day and age, health is sometimes a luxury item,” Kali-Rai said. “With rent and food and children, sometime one’s health isn’t a priority.” 

It was Kali-Rai’s first participation in Vallejo Outreach.

“It’s heart-warming,” he said.

Sgt. Brent Garrick again fronted the Vallejo Police Dept. table with various items like shopping bags, pens and fly swatters free for the taking.

“An awesome event,” said Capt. Lee Horton. “Pastor Peterson has identified the need in this community. Sometimes it’s great just to have a big event bringing everybody together.”

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