The fireside room at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, looking out as the sun set behind rainclouds over the West County region provided the perfect perspective to celebrate GRIP’s year.  The annual meeting and reception on February 29th recognized the volunteers, staff, and member congregations, and the synergistic way these all work together to change the lives of our clients and residents.

Faith community members connected with GRIP staff, the board of directors, and other community leaders before heading into the formal session, with remarks by incoming board president Maria Costen and Executive Director Ralph Payton.

GRIP’s Resource Center & Food Services Supervisor Chantel Toliver shared photos and thanked the Dining Room Overhaul Team, including   Sims Metals, the Rotary Club, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Chantel Toliver with volunteer Helen Smith

Toliver also honored three of our faith communities for outstanding service: Southside Church of Christ, Open Door UMC, and our host for the event, UUCB, before presenting the volunteer spotlight award to long-time supporter Helen Smith.

James and Alyssa Donsbach, current residents of GRIP along with their kids, shared how their lives were suddenly turned upside down and how GRIP was there to support them and provide the resources they needed to be safe and sheltered while finding a permanent home of their own. They are among the many people served by GRIP in 2023, which included:

  • 6,580 meals/month, totaling 78,960 annually
  • 10,000 outreach meals delivered to homeless encampments
  • 60 families sheltered and the majority have now moved into their own home
  • Over 500 unhoused, single adults had 2,419 showers and used our laundry facilities

GRIP’s three case workers

Direct of Programs Manusiu (Siu) Tuivailala and Operations Coordinator Damonique (Damo) Tupuola joined Toliver to share stories of the work they are doing for the community from outreach bringing lunches to encampments around the city, to the overnight warming center where the dining room is converted into a giant slumber party with cots and warm blankets and warm beverages. They also thanked our three caseworkers, and the shelter team that keeps everything moving smoothly for up to 65 residents at a time.

Board member Brandon Mercer read two poems about homelessness and help called “Divided” and “Soup.”

Finishing out the evening, two new board members were announced and welcomed, Eun-Joo (E.J.) Myung and Ruthie Abelson Olivas.