Free lunches despite mandated shutdown day

June 19, 2009 7:23:01 PM PDT
Furlough Friday is part of a larger effort in Oakland to close an $83 million budget gap. However, city employees at one recreation center felt compelled to show up, anyway.

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The sign says "closed," but the doors were open for a time on Friday at Oakland's Lincoln Square Recreation Center. Despite the mandatory shutdown day ordered by Mayor Ron Dellums, Lincoln Square opened for an hour to serve free lunch.

It's a federal program designed to serve local families, five days a week.

"So you're letting people in to have lunch?" asked ABC7's Laura Anthony.
"Exactly, but we're not having any other public activities right now," said Fiona Wong from the Lincoln Square Recreation Center.

City employee Willie Davis delivered the lunches to Lincoln Square. He has no second thoughts about giving up his day off.

"Why should I? It's for the kids, for the kids and the families and the community," said Willie Davis, a furloughed employee.

"Are you happy that the staff was here to give you lunch today?" asked Anthony.
"Yes, very happy. Thank you," said Cindy Zhang, an Oakland resident.

The center also went ahead with a summer camp for kids, because it was pre-paid by parents, fees that also covered the cost of the camp counselors. Those same counselors served the free lunches to the public.

ABC7 went to City Hall to get comment from Mayor Dellums or the City Council about Lincoln Square's efforts to serve the community, but unlike the rec center, we found the doors here were indeed shut tight.

One city leader who declined to speak on camera, but told ABC7, staff at other rec centers had formally asked if they could volunteer their time on this shutdown day to serve lunch and other programs. However, those volunteers were ordered to stay home.

Late on Friday ABC7 learned the city administrator called the recreation center and told them they must remain closed on Fridays and they can no longer open on their own.

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