By Karen Billing
Rancho Santa Fe resident Cynthia Comerford is doing all she can to help the Bread of Life Rescue Mission in Oceanside, a non-profit providing daily meals to the homeless and a warm nightly shelter during winter months.
Along with her friend Willie Jackson, a deacon at Encinitas Church of Christ, Comerford held a Jazz Fest fundraiser on Nov. 10 to assist the mission that is under significant financial stress.
“They’re really at the point of critical necessity,” said Comerford. “We felt so compelled to put a benefit together as a way to make money and raise awareness for Bread of Life…I fell in love with this group. They’re so compassionate with a skeleton infrastructure that is strong and solid but they can always use more.”
Bread of Life serves up about 10,000 to 15,000 meals a month and is run entirely by the husband and wife team of Raylene and Steve Bassett.
“Cynthia and Will have been really great,” said Raylene Bassett. “Cynthia asked about how donations come in and I told her that we have enough money for just one more month and then we will have to close our doors. She wrote a check that night.”
Bassett said Jackson and Comerford went into action right away planning the fundraiser.
“That was such a blessing and they have spread the word to so many,” Bassett said.
A member of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, Bread of Life primarily serves the six cities of Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad, San Marcos, Escondido and Encinitas.
People come from all over to get a hot meal — Comerford spoke to one man who takes the train from Del Mar to Oceanside, retuning back to Del Mar to sleep under a bridge.
Bread of Life provides year-round evening meals and sack lunches, food boxes, clothing, personal care items and referral services.
Starting Dec. 1, Bread of Life Rescue Mission will be a designated cold weather overnight shelter. Each overnight guest is provided with mandatory weekly professional case management and drug and alcohol testing. Comerford likes that system, where people need to be clean and they take steps toward getting people help and back on their feet if they have substance abuse issues or other issues.
“They’re not allowed to come back until they’re 30 days sober, so they are compelled to stay dry,” Comerford said. “I like that they have control and that they know everybody that comes there. It’s like a big family, they know everybody by name.”
The small shelter can only accommodate 25 men and 25 women every night.
Jackson said he met a man through the program who said Bread of Life really changed his life.
“They really gave him what he needed to get back on his feet, it wasn’t just a handout,” Jackson said. “I was quite impressed with how people who went through the program have also come back to volunteer because Bread of Life had given them so much.”
Comerford first found out about Bread of Life when her son, a student at Cathedral Catholic, went to the mission to complete community service work earlier this year. A few months ago on one of her volunteer sessions, she brought along her friend Jackson, whom she met 15 years ago in a tae kwon do class.
The first time Comerford took him to Bread of Life, they met in a room where the ceiling was leaking. Seeing the leaking roof and hearing about Bread of Life’s needs, Jackson was instantly “all in.”
At his church, Jackson helps organize volunteer outings for the youth group, getting them to lend a hand whenever possible.
“It’s something that I feel is a part of our jobs as Christians to give back,” Jackson said. “It’s our job to reach out and help the less fortunate and find opportunities to do that each and every single day.”
Comerford and Jackson give each other the credit for their first successful fundraiser and each has endless compliments for the other’s “tender heart.”
“Without Willie this fundraiser would’ve never happened,” said Comerford.
“You’ll never find a volunteer more reliable than this lady,” echoes Jackson with a nod at Cynthia.
They agree they make a good team and hope to get another fundraising effort together soon.
Volunteers can donate their time serving meals, helping maintain the facilities, organizing and distributing clothing donations, and by providing drug testing and mentorship.
Supplies are always needed such as gently used sleeping bags, blankets and clothing; hygiene items like shampoo, conditioner, soap and razors; and food service donations such as can and dry food, soup bowls, dinner plates and foam coffee cups,
Bread of Life is located at 1919 Apple Street, Ste. I in Oceanside. For more information, call (760) 722-0800 or visit www.bolrescue.org.