East Bay Senior citizens come together to give groceries to low-income seniors in their community

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The Mercy Brown Bag Program is Building a Better Bay Area by seniors helping seniors fight through the hunger pains.

"The Mercy Brown Bag program is helping seniors in need," said Andrew Pisano, Operations Manager. "We have 5,000 seniors and we give them groceries two times a month."

Every two weeks hundreds of nearby senior citizens line up outside the Mercy Brown Bag Program to pick up their bag full of grains, fresh produce and protein.

What makes The Mercy Brown Bag Program so unique is for over three decades most of their volunteers are senior citizens who want to help other seniors in their community.

"What is so great about it is it gives seniors some sort of purpose and something to do, something to get out and that is very beneficial for that longevity," said Pisano. "Seniors coming and building grocery bags and knowing that they have a purpose means a lot to them."

In Alameda County close to 20,000 senior citizens are living in poverty. The Mercy Brown Bag Program helps relieve the financial pressure and helps senior citizens become more independent.

"It is super expensive to live here and we don't want these folks to have to decide, do I pay my rent or a medical bill, or do I buy food?" said Pisano. "That is what we are trying to relieve is that extra pressure."

This includes Father Louie Vitale who is an integral part of the program. He has encouraged other seniors staying at the Mercy Retirement and Care center to volunteer at the food bank program.

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For most of his life Father Louie was a peace activist priest who preached at St. Boniface Church in San Francisco. He is known to stand up against racism, poverty, and war.

Now in his later years he volunteers at the Mercy Brown Program as their official greeter.

"I just like to see that people are taken care of. I greet them and recognize them and remind them of their worth," said Father Louie. "They're not beggars or riff-raff off the streets or anything like that. They're people too and they have families.

"Without him it wouldn't be the seniors helping seniors. He built that model being one of the first seniors to help us," said Pisano. "He encouraged his fellow seniors to come help as well and that is why he is building a better bay area."

Since the Mercy Brown Bag program opened, it has grown to sixty locations with over 500 senior volunteers.

Volunteers help by organizing food in the warehouse and distributing bags on and off location.

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"I am dedicated to helping people and I spent most of my life doing that," said Father Louie. "This is an opportunity for me to be able to reach out and I want to pass that on."

The Mercy Brown Bag Program also provides a delivery service to seniors who unable to make it to the food bank due to health and transportation issues. The trucks deliver groceries to sixty-four senior care providers facilities.

"The Brown bag program is for someone who really needs it," said Miguel Magallan who is a Driver and Warehouse Manager. "Every week there are new people. You either eat or pay the bills."

The Mercy Brown Bag Program is always looking to help seniors in the community. To volunteer or donate to The Mercy Brown Bag Program visit their website.
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