Nonprofit led by senior citizens in Emeryville in need of help this holiday season

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- This holiday season, a remarkable organization, led by a remarkable senior citizen in the East Bay that helps the underserved needs a little help themselves.

In a tiny parking lot tucked away between San Pablo Avenue and the freeway, the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program, or ECAP for short, collects and distributes food and provides services to more than 200,000 people in Alameda County every year.

Eighty-two-year-old Nellie Hannon founded the nonprofit back in 1985, knowing all too well the feeling of being hungry.

"There were 10 kids in our family and we knew what it was like to be poor."

With her brother, Bobby and dozens of unpaid volunteers provide for hundreds of people a day. Many who line up down the block hours before the pickup time.

"We serve the homeless, some of the working-class people. What they make doesn't meet all the needs," says Nellie as she stands in front of a giant bin of red onions and fresh produce. She designed the parking lot in a way that patrons can "shop" for their food with dignity.

One woman, standing at the back of the line says she depends on ECAP regularly.

"I don't have any food. It takes so long to get my check every third Wednesday." She says, solemnly.

But this year with Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly approaching and when the need is the greatest, something unexpected is throwing a wrench in Nellie and the volunteers' plans.

"We don't have enough transportation to pick up everything."

Their large box van, already old and broken into countless times suddenly died. Their other two minivans are also on their last leg. Both, over 20-years-old, have become so run-down Nellie's brother, Bobby, who serves as operations manager, worries about his sister's safety.

"She goes out and picks up all over the Bay Area. Will she be able to get back? She's called me and the van is broke down."

Already unable to pay their volunteers, most who are over 70-years-old themselves, there is no money for a new truck.

Vincent Pannizzo with Mission for the Homeless, is picking up breads and baked goods and recalls how loved this brother-sister duo are.

"They help us out tremendously. We come here every day and they always have food for us with a smile, they're so helpful. Quite frankly I don't know what our organization would do without them. There has to be people out there who have love in their hearts that are willing to help out and donate."

These seniors, who already volunteer 12-hours a day seven days a week don't have time to fundraise. Nellie's determination to serve just means working harder to serve the community she loves.

"God gave me this work to do, or else I wouldn't be doing it at all. When he tells me to quit, I'll quit," she says with a smile.

ECAP is in need of extra volunteers this season. If you'd like to help, go here.

To make a direct donation to the nonprofit you can donate to their PayPal site through their donate link.

If you have a large minivan or truck in good condition to donate, please email John Bauters, or call 415-999-7932.
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