In This Issue

"Toy Story"

by Ruth Denburg-Yoshiwara


"Getting to Know You"

by Tedi Mae Tortolano


"Debbie's Desk"

by Debbie Decker


"Who's in the Garden?"

by Barbara Partridge


"Pantry Training Report"

by Jean Buesing


"From Your Pantry Scheduler"

by Allison Gordon


"In the Pantry"

by Roya Muniz



Event Calendar



Other Volunteer Opportunities



Connect With Us


Some Sad News

We are saddened by the sudden passing of volunteer Ray Wagner on November 18th. Ray volunteered at the pantry for over a decade, working in the warehouse, stocking shelves, or wherever he was needed. There will be a memorial service for all who wish to help celebrate his contribution to all our lives:

January 6th

Wooodland Hills
Community Church

2:00 PM

Service will be in the Sanctuary, followed by a reception at Harter Hall.

Toy Story

by Ruth Denburg Yoshiwara

West Valley Food Pantry gives to others all year long, but every December it outdoes itself with the Holiday Toy Drive. Hundreds of toys are solicited, donated, purchased and then given away at a festive, hours long event in mid-December. Families that have registered with their children as clients of WVFP get priority in picking gifts, but the Giveaway is open to the general public after all our clients have been served.

The tradition started small in scope many years ago with a few volunteers asking WVFP coalition members to donate toys for the children that frequented the Pantry with their parents. For WVFP frequent partner National Charity League (NCL), this occasion became the perfect opportunity to give their members service hours and to tap their own extensive and generous donor base. Working together, WVFP and NCL expanded the Giveaway until it became the huge event it is today. Last year over 300 gifts were given away!

Parents Choosing Toys for their Kids

Parents Choosing Toys for their Kids

On the day of the Giveaway, on a first come first serve basis, adult clients, without the children, are escorted into the gift salon, where NCL volunteers have set up eye catching holiday displays of unwrapped gifts, grouped according to age appropriateness. After choosing a gift for each registered child, the parents may have NCL volunteers wrap each present after they exit.

While waiting, the children are entertained with arts and crafts, hot chocolate and cookies, and sometimes a visit from Santa. The wait can be long, as the line can snake down the block. A few families have even camped out the night before! Pantry volunteers help with logging people in at the computers and keeping order in the courtyard. (Look for sign up sheets during your pantry shift.)

This year the Toy Giveaway will be held on Saturday, December 16th from 9:00 a.m. until noon in the courtyard at Prince of Peace Church. Currently registered clients with children already listed as dependents will receive a priority pass on their regular monthly Pantry visit between November 6th and December 8th, entitling them to be included in the first group to enter and choose gifts. Clients without children currently registered can add the children on their Pantry regular visit through December 8th, and new clients can also register with their children until then. This second group will get their passes on the day of the Giveaway. Non-Pantry clients are welcome and will be the last group to select gifts.

This is an opportunity for our clients and their children to participate in joyful gift giving and receiving that might not have otherwise been possible. Volunteers share in the excitement by donating and soliciting gifts and signing up to work the day of the event. Be a part of this celebratory season – donate and volunteer! Cheers!








Getting to Know You

by Tedi Mae Tortolano

A savy sage with wit and wisdom once said, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” Such was the case a few years ago when I met Tamara Rowland and Mike Schwartz, West Valley Food Pantry pickup drivers.

It was early in the morning at the back lot of Trader Joe’s Market when I was making the usual pickup of “write off “goods for the Food Pantry. In previous years most of the merchandise would be piled into huge plastic bags and placed in shopping carts for pickup by WVFP volunteers. Those heavily loaded bags had to be lifted into the trunk and crammed into my ’96 Chrysler sedan. Times change and plastic bags became “no no” news. Now the merchandise was being stacked in bulky banana boxes that usurped valuable car space. Enter these two ready, willing and (somewhat younger) able souls with their roomy SUVs (and smiling faces) assigned to assist me in this physically demanding task. So efficient were they, that not too long thereafter my participation became irrelevant–so I retired from the the picker upper group of hard working WVFP volunteers to take on the role of the writer of letters of acknowledgement to WVFP goods donors–a less physical task, and more apropos for an octogenarian.

Under the supervision of the indefatigable Les Carney, the shelves of the WVFP are kept stocked with canned and boxed groceries, baked good, meat and dairy products, etc. that are picked up from local stores by a team of drivers that includes Bob Eisenberg, Sonny Goldstein, Jeff Haller, Hossein Kahlayi, Al Mael, Tamara Rowland, Boris and Amy Savic, Mike Schwartz, Terri Seidman, Donna and Ed Shuster, Nancy Warren, Joe Weber and Frankie. Their diligent daily pickups helps ensure that the WVFP food supply is maintained as a ready resource when needed by our clients, thus helping to fulfill the Pantry’s dedicated mission that “no one goes away hungry.

We extend a warm, appreciative salute to all of these drivers, and a “getting to know you” opportunity to meet two of them.

Calendar of Events

Dec 14
Farmers Insurance Sorting
POP Parking Lot


Dec 16
Toy Distribution Day!!!
POP Family Center


Dec 25&26
Pantry Closed for Christmas
Happy Holidays Everyone!


Jan 1
Pantry Closed
Happy New Year!


Driver Tamara Rowland

Driver Tamara Rowland

Driver Mike Schwartz

Driver Mike Schwartz

Punctual and efficient like a Swiss watch, Tamara Rowland, born in Buffalo, New York, is a “child of the Northeast”, and a retired international banker. She holds a BA in Political Economy and Art History from Williams College, and an MA from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. She started learning French in the first grad. “I suppose that lucky beginning catapulted me into a career where I lived and worked in the French speaking countries in North and West Africa. My husband’s work, also in finance, took us to Japan, where we had the good fortune to live for five years. Our son Alex was born there. (Sad to say my Japanese is not on a part with my French) Those who know me well know that I love to cook. It breaks my heart that so much food is wasted in this country. I’m happy that Trader Joe’s donates so generously to the Food Pantry, and I’m proud that my little old Prius can hold 15 of their boxes and haul them every Thursday to be given to those in need.”

Quick of wit and nimble of foot, driver Mike Schwartz, a local Woodland Hills resident, at 76 years of age is slim and trim, and an avid racquetball player who enjoys family activities with this “two children, four grand kids and five grand dogs.” Retiring four years ago from a career in the landscape and irrigation industry in the manufacturing of lawn care products, he originally started in the sales and marketing area, then went on to become Executive Vice President of two companies. He is currently enrolled in a Political Science class in the Pierce College Encore Program, and has been married for 55 years to his wife Andrea, who is a weekly volunteer at the Pantry, proudly serving for nearly five years. “We are both fortunate to be able to be in a position to give back to the community and find the West Valley Food Pantry an excellent opportunity to do so.”








From Debbie’s Desk

Breathtaking Generosity and Transformations!

November and December are amazing months at the Pantry – we give food to around 3,000 people a month and try to connect them with social services to help them to a more secure life. Many of the life stories of our clients are heartbreaking. There are days that are so overwhelming that we wonder why we continue to do this but. BUT – then SOMETHING HAPPENS and we get to witness amazing transformations. And that SOMETHING HAPPENED LAST WEDNESDAY and gives reason to why we do what we do.

During this past month we’ve had numbers of individuals, schools and businesses that have had food drives, contributing thousands of pounds of food. Our annual Fundraising Campaign is also in full swing so we’re receiving cash donations that will help us feed our clients the other 11 months of the year. Last TUESDAY, one of our many donors, a Sikh gentleman, quietly walked into the chaos of the Pantry and waited for a volunteer to become available. He handed over a check, asked that it be directed to the appropriate person (me), nodded his head and left. But this year his usually sizable check was five times his usual donation. In my four years working this job, I have never met this man! Frustrating, huh??!

BUT THEN…..he came back again on Wednesday – the day before Thanksgiving. The Pantry Supervisor, Roya Muniz, came running into my office, grabbed me me by the wrist yelling: “He’s back!” The two of us went running back to the Pantry (and please know, this body doesn’t “run” anymore!). When we got back up the hill, he was already in his Roll-Royce….yeah, he’s got a Rolls….but there he was in this magnificent car, wearing a suit and a turban with a jewel in the center. We immediately expressed our thanks for the generous check he’d given us the prior day. He looked embarrassed at our profuse thanks. Finally, he looked up at us and humbly said: “This country has been very good to me and my God even more so. I’m called to remember Him daily. This is a small piece of my giving back”. He rolled up the window and drove away. It wasn’t until he’d left that we discovered the reason for his second trip in two days.

About 15 to 20 Pantry clients were lined up on the benches waiting their turn for food, but all had stunned looks. Some had soft smiles and one woman had tears rolling down her cheeks. Then we hear: Our donor had returned with a roll of $50 bills. Every adult in the line received one. Each client shared with us what they were going to do with that gift: A senior was going to refill his prescription. A homeless man had enough to get a hotel room for Thanksgiving and would sleep in a real bed that night. The mother that had tears on her cheeks said she’d now be able to give her three children “a real Thanksgiving meal” that would last for a week. (We had run out of turkeys the day before.) Wonder, excitement, gratitude. Every single one of them wanted to know who he was and how they could thank him.


This is what selfless giving does and why we soldier on day after day, giving out food, compassion, and hope. At this time of gratitude and joy, please take a moment to recognize how fortunate we are.

Personally, I give THANKS for all of you!

Debbie Decker

Executive Director & C.O.O.



Backend Computer Volunteer Needed

We’re looking for someone to help record the client visits once a week in the office (not in the Pantry). It requires a detail-oriented person who is already very comfortable using a Windows computer. You would be trained to record visits, input new clients, formulate visit notes, and watch for problems. Time commitment is 2 to 3 hours every Thursday (but could move to Wednesday later if desired.) If interested, please email Linda Worland.


The Paper Needs You!

Looking for people who would love to work on our Pantry Paper! We need people for formatting and layout, graphic design, and content creation (photos and articles). Soooo…share your special talents: We need you! Contact Helene Fernandez.


Remember: Get your schedule request for January in by December 15th!







Who's in the Garden?

Barbara Partridge

The COMMUNITY GARDEN here at POP is alive and producing despite 100 degree heat and sprinkler problems. Our mission is to provide fresh produce to the West Valley Food Pantry clients. We have provided hundreds of heads of lettuce, carrots and delicious tomatoes this past year. This requires a lot of work but the smiles on the clients’ faces makes it all worthwhile. Lynn Gilson and Elizabeth Bates have been weeding so the garden looked wonderful for Bishop Bruce’s visit. She really liked it! Her husband is an expert gardener. We have planted lettuce, beets, carrots, cauliflower, and peppers. We will be planting snap peas, swiss chard and much more.

Help is greatly needed for harvesting and upkeep. If you have a few hours one day a week, we would greatly appreciate your help. Harvesting is usually done on Mondays and Wednesdays, but work can be done on other days.

Please contact me: Barbara Partridge for more information.

A small Food Bank Cookbook is in progress to help people use the produce in a healthy way. Recipes will be welcomed.

Come join our happy group!

Pantry Training Report

Jean Buesing notes that the Pantry welcomes nine new volunteers who trained in October & November:



Lisa Radist trained by Barbara Krauss

Masoud Nabavi trained by Antje Brunner

Mary Flacco trained by Diana Plotkin

Meghan Slaninko trained by Claire Martin Park


Andi Manpearl trained by Roslyn Miller

Jaci Rahdar and Jack Scissors trained by Liz Chaneske

Joanne Adamson and Jill Harris trained by Andi Schwartz

From Your Pantry Scheduler

Allison Gordon

We are hopefully going to be trying out our new Scheduling Program for February and that we be ready for you to go use it soon to request your dates. Hank and I are still trying to work it out, and I will be sending instructions to you when we are ready. I am really excited about our new program but I think it will take a few months to work out the kinks. More news about this will be coming soon.

In the meantime, I hope you all had a super Happy Thanksgiving and appreciate how blessed we all are by being surrounded by family and friends and having (a lot of) food on our tables.

In the Pantry

Roya Muniz, Pantry Supervisor


We served 2,406 Households in the month of October.

Our special thanks to Jeff Rudner and David Goldberg for organizing and all the Boy Scout troops for their participation in the Annual Calabasas Boy Scouts Food Drive, along with the following volunteers for their help: Susan Rund, Betty Allen, Jamie Dimarco, Sonia Iran, Ruth Denburg Yoshiwara, Terri Seidman, Harry Seidman, Antje Brunner, and Joyce Simmons.

Thank you as well to the students of our local Elementary and Middle Schools for their food drives which also provided us with a generous amount of provisions.

We welcome three new Pantry Volunteers: Sonia Iran, Masoud Nabavi, and Frank Rosales.

We gratefully acknowledge the generous contribution of Allison Gordon for purchasing and preparing the bottles of shampoo and body wash for the homeless weekly mobile showers. Thanks and blessings to you.








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