A Year-Long Fremont Food Distribution Receives a Visit from Mayor

Northwest  |  February 28, 2024
On December 31, 2023, Lily Mei, the first female Chinese-American mayor of the inviting city of Fremont, visited the hot meal distribution site to interact with Tzu Chi volunteers, expressing gratitude for their years of compassionate service to the community. Photo/Nicholas Lim

Written by Eileen Chen, Renee Liu
Translated by Janet Li, Anna Sipek, Andrew Larracuente
Edited by Ariel Chan

The unsheltered population in the Bay Area of Northern California, where big business resides, has increased due to high living costs. Over the past year, Tzu Chi volunteers from Tzu Chi Northwest have steadfastly distributed warm breakfast to the unhoused every Sunday morning in Fremont, CA. 

Adults and children working together to pack and distribute hot breakfast. Photo / Renee Liu

Rain or shine, hot or cold, for 52 Sundays unimpeded, the Tzu Chi volunteers have diligently kept bellies full and bodies warm. Accompanying the provided food includes essential living supplies like backpacks and sleeping bags. 

By 2023’s conclusion, Mayor Lily Mei – the first female Chinese-American mayor of Fremont – took time to visit the breakfast distribution site, interact with Tzu Chi volunteers, and express appreciation for their compassionate contribution to the community. These endeavors marked a heartwarming end to the year for Tzu Chi volunteers in Northern California.

Warm Breakfast for the unhoused

Volunteers bring their children to participate in the distribution of hot breakfast
Volunteer Nicholas Lim, accompanied by his child, participated in the distribution of hot breakfast. Photo / Renee Liu

Most every Sunday looks the same: Tzu Chi volunteers wake up early, braving the elements, to make their way to the Family Resource Center in Fremont. There they work together to prepare warm breakfast items like buns, potatoes, fried noodles, and coffee.

hot steamed buns
Steaming hot Chinese-style buns prepared in advance at home by Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo / Renee Liu
American breakfast donuts
Donuts and bagels, collected in advance by Tzu Chi volunteers, with leftover pastries donated by a bakery for the breakfast distribution. Photo / Renee Liu

Unhoused individuals, carrying bags of belongings, patiently line up to receive breakfast. Meanwhile, volunteers warmly greet these familiar faces, offering assistance in whatever ways they can.

“There are many unhoused individuals, especially on cold mornings, who really need some food.” expressed Jason Lin, head of breakfast distribution. “Seeing some of them come every week, joyfully enjoying their meals and also receiving necessary living supplies- I feel that what we are doing can truly help them a lot.”

Scott, who has been coming for meals since 2016, shared his gratitude for this community service: “I really like coming here; you guys are really good! I need a sleeping bag and a backpack because I often sleep in a tent, sometimes outdoors. What you provide is really good, thank you.”

The food here is great, really delicious, the best breakfast, nothing better than this.

Mayor Mei Joins for the Last Distribution of the Year

unhoused neighbors and people in need line up to receive breakfast
Street friends and needy citizens lining up to receive breakfast before 8 AM. Photo / Nicholas Lim

On the last Sunday morning of 2023, Tzu Chi volunteers, as usual, distributed breakfast to the unhoused in the parking lot of the Family Resource Center in Fremont. 

Volunteers distributing drinks
Tzu Chi volunteers distributing juice and freshly brewed coffee early in the morning. Photo / Nicholas Lim
Breakfast distribution site
A continuous scene of breakfast distribution every Sunday for 52 weeks. Photo / Nicholas Lim

Unexpectedly, a special guest attended the event: Mayor Lily Mei, the first Chinese-American female mayor of Fremont, accompanied by Benjamin Yee, a member of the Fremont City Planning Commission. 

Unhoused neighbors queue up to receive breakfast
Unhoused queuing up to receive breakfast. Photo / Nicholas Lim

During the two-hour visit, Mayor Lily Mei chatted with Tzu Chi volunteers, expressing her gratitude for Tzu Chi volunteers’ long-term care for the unhoused. She emphasized that the city government would make more efforts to address the issues faced by the unhoused.

Fremont’s first Chinese-American female mayor (fourth from right) and Tzu Chi volunteers
Mayor Lily Mei and Tzu Chi volunteers posing together. Photo / Nicholas Lim
Lily Mei and Tzu Chi volunteers family
Tzu Chi volunteer Nicholas Lim and his three-generation family participates in breakfast distribution, posing with Mayor Lily Mei (second from the left) and City Planning Commissioner Benjamin Yee (left). Photo source / Nicholas Lim

Mayor Lily Mei advocates for establishing unhoused shelters and providing counseling and job training services for eligible unhoused individuals: “This requires our passion and love, as well as creating solutions to solve problems and help those in need, so mutual support is crucial.”

Lily Mei interacting with Tzu Chi volunteer Eileen Chen
Mayor Lily Mei having a warm conversation with Tzu Chi volunteer Eileen Chen. Photo / Nicholas Lim

Seeing Tzu Chi volunteers bringing their children to participate in the breakfast distribution, she encouraged the young volunteers to read more, make good use of libraries, and actively participate in community activities: “Let us see the power of young people shining in the community! Just like a book, when you turn one page, you will see the next story.”

Lily Mei and visitors with their dog
Mayor Lily Mei, with an approachable image, actively supports Chinese-American community activities. Photo / Nicholas Lim

While those with stable lives may be picky about their daily meals, what the unhoused urgently need is often just a hot drink or a piece of bread. Please support the charitable actions of Tzu Chi USA volunteers caring for the community. Let us use love to help more people, giving them the strength to start anew.

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