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Feeding Hope to Those in Need

Cypress group brings restaurant-style meals and groceries to first responders and those in need

Article by Erica Hernandez

Photography by Shannon Valentine

Originally published in Cypress Lifestyle

When Metta Archilla-Ishida started Cypress Area Eats on Facebook, she knew it would be more than just another online foodie group. The group connects more than 10,000 Cypress residents who post restaurant reviews, photos of home-cooked recipes and dining experiences. Lately, however, it’s been the driving force behind an organic volunteer effort aimed at delivering meals and necessities to more than 1,000 people in quarantine. “This COVID-19 is just another example of how our food group comes to support the community through its membership,” Metta says. During the height of the coronavirus quarantine, volunteers distributed bags of groceries and even restaurant-style meals to needy families, elderly, those with health complications and first responders. In early March, Metta posted a call for volunteers to help with the effort. She was quickly met with a team of workers who get food and basic supplies like masks or latex gloves right to the doorstep of shut-in residents and first responders. The group was lovingly dubbed the Care Team. Among the first to volunteer was Wade Fox. Wade, a financial worker, did everything from grill hamburgers to purchase pet food for a dog whose owner was in quarantine. “You just don’t understand people’s struggle until you’re involved in it,” Wade says. And while many folks were finding ways to self-isolate, these volunteers put on their masks and got moving. Drivers went as far aways Kingwood or the Woodlands to respond to requests. They delivered supplies to sick children, disabled adults and people who’d lost jobs or were financially struggling. While the team could not pay utility bills or donate cash directly, their deliveries often offered a semblance of hope during a bleak season. “We can put food in the bellies of the hungry,” says Metta. “We can give people hope, and sometimes food hope is just as important as anything else.” The group brought together volunteers from all walks of life. Some were stay-at-home workers unaffected by quarantine and others were parents who juggled child care and family life with volunteer work. Metta herself works from home full-time, cares for her elderly mother, runs a pie-baking side business and manages the team's volunteer efforts. Another volunteer, Cassie Foe, a mom who was recently laid off, chose to help the group by making cards, delivering cookies and giving cash. “A lot of people have been laid off or their businesses are suffering. They're still donating,” she says. Home bakers, caterers and local eateries also sponsored weekly efforts by donating their produce or items from their menu. Land of a Thousand Hills in Towne Lake donated hot coffee, Nyam Nyam Cafe gave away dozens of pastries, 2920 Roadhouse donated pasta and potato salads while Creekwood Grill served up burgers during one recent delivery. Copper Kettle Chocolate Factory added a sweet twist with specialty chocolate designs made for first-responders. The shop designed and donated chocolate fire trucks, badges and walkie-talkie radios. “You could sit around and get depressed or you could go out and do something,” says Carrie Kossoudji, one of the owners of Copper Kettle Chocolate Factory. To help with the effort, the store also accepted canned goods, cleaning supplies and cash. Within days of announcing itself as a donation drop-off location, Copper Kettle’s customers took action. One customer even walked in, checkbook in hand, and wrote a check for $200 to help with food purchases. As quarantine restrictions began to ease in May, deliveries slowed from several times a week to just weekends. The group then shifted its focus to feeding first-responders. Volunteers delivered hot meals to hungry hospital staffers, nurses at retirement homes, firefighters and constables. Their deliveries were met with smiles and thanks from those who could not easily leave their jobs or venture to get a hot lunch or snack. This is not the first time the group has rallied together in the midst of an emergency. During the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey the group fed more than 3,000 meals to first responders. Volunteers operated from a mobile kitchen and relied on daily donations to purchase supplies and cook massive amounts of food. Metta says the recent effort shows her how much help people need in the Cypress community. At the same time, she says, there are many willing, hard-working people who are ready to fill the need. “As ugly as the world can be,” Metta says. “It is also met with equal beauty and that is a very fine thing.” Metta plans to eventually wind down the Care Team and refocus on the Cypress Area Eats annual September food drive. The drive is in collaboration with Cy-Fair Helping Hands which services needy families. Last year, Cypress Area Eats collected more than 4,000 pounds of food. The goal this year is 6,000 pounds of food. And though the Care Team may be hanging up their aprons for the season, volunteers and businesses will still be ready to deploy just in case the need arises again.