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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ceres Project Celebrates 100,000 Meals

100,000 meals

By Cathryn Couch
In teen chef Carly Fernandez words, “…volunteering at Ceres (is) a life-changing experience.” Carly joins dozens of other 13-18 year olds one afternoon each week volunteering in the kitchen of the Sebastopol-based Ceres Community Project. With guidance from adult mentors, they prepare nutrient rich meals for Sonoma County families dealing with cancer and other serious illnesses.

Much To Celebrate
At 4 ½ years, the non-profit’s volunteer “angels” will deliver their 100,000th meal this month. With help from hundreds of community members, the Ceres Project just moved into its permanent home in downtown Sebastopol.  And with the creation of the Ceres Community Garden, the teen program now extends from soil to table – thanks to O’Reilly Media, Terry and Joanne Dale, and Sonoma Compost.

“We have been extraordinarily blessed.” says founder and Executive Director Cathryn Couch, “Thanks to literally thousands of people, Ceres is now poised to make a much bigger difference.”

The group’s new commercial kitchen, more days available for cooking, and the new garden program mean Ceres will be able to expand the number of meals prepared and include nearly twice as many teens in the program. “If we continue to have the financial support we need from the community,” says Couch, “we will grow from 45 to 70 clients each week by the end of 2012 and to 90 to 100 clients each week by the end of 2013.” That means 45,000 meals next year and about 60,000 the year after that.

Value to All Concerned
The nutrient rich meals the group delivers can make a vital difference. “Instead of feeling worse and worse from the chemo, I started feeling better and better,” shared a current client. “I was astounded. Despite the damage the chemo was doing to my immune system and body, I began healing. I’ve already gained back 20 of the pounds I had lost.”

With the creation of a small vegetable and herb garden at the new site, and the nearby production garden at O’Reilly Media, Ceres will fulfill its goal to have every teen get their hands into the dirt as well as the mixing bowl. The two aspects of the teen program will be completely integrated, with head chef Rob Hogencamp and garden coordinator Sara McCamant working together to share the how and why of growing your own food. “…Young people in our community are hungry to make a real difference…,” says Meal Program Director Margaret Howe, “at Ceres we give them that opportunity…. Teens will be responsible for all aspects of building and maintaining the new garden.”

Support the Project
There are lots of ways to support the Ceres Project’s work to strengthen our community. On January 13th, join Pam Davis – Chair of the Sonoma County Planning Commission representing the 5th District – as she celebrates her 50th birthday with a benefit for Ceres Community Project and the Sebastopol Cultural Community Center. The event features a gourmet three course dinner served by Ceres’ teen chefs, fabulous music by The Poyntlyss Sisters and Miss Kitty and the Big Dogs, and an outstanding silent auction. Tickets are $35 in advance, $45 at the door. To purchase, visit or stop by the Sebastopol Cultural Community Center at 390 Morris Street in Sebastopol.

To donate directly, please go to or send a check to Ceres PO Box 1562, Sebastopol CA 95473. Find details on volunteering and great gifts online or stop by the new offices at 7351 Bodega Avenue in Sebastopol between 10 – 4 Monday through Friday to shop “live”. For more info, call 707-799-7489.

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