Other officers who serve on the board:
Bea Guzman: vice president
Paula Medina: secretary
Trudy DeGroot: treasurer
Tami Ulibarri and Dave Santos: purchasing agents
Bob Plaugher: grant writer
For more than 20 years, Sylvia Soberanis has participated in a variety of food banks throughout Northern California to help alleviate hunger for low-income patrons.
Now, she is using those skills in Patterson as the new president of the Westside Food Pantry, an organization dedicated to serving perishable and non-perishable goods to low- income families throughout Patterson, Westley and Crows Landing since 1991.
Soberanis began being trained last month by past president Olga Holcombe to secure the pantry’s mission. She said she first became aware of the organization after an article was published in the Patterson Irrigator earlier this year about the need for more volunteers and board members.
Soberanis responded to the article and visited the food pantry several times the month before she was named president. Westside Food Pantry board members viewed her as an innovative woman, capable of stretching the charity’s outreach efforts.
“Sylvia is going to be a great president,” said Holcombe, who will stay on the board as past-president and as an adviser. “She is very experienced, and knows what needs to be done.”
Soberanis, 58, was surprised to learn the board had chosen her to become the pantry’s next president during the April 11 board meeting. Board members acknowledged Holcombe’s 10 years of service, including eight years as president, during that same meeting.
Soberanis was born in San Antonio, Texas before moving to Turlock at age 9. She has always considered the Central Valley her “roots,” despite living most of her life in Santa Clara County after the age of 10.
“I always knew I wanted to come back,” said Soberanis, who moved back to Patterson area six years ago. “I’ve always felt like this was my home.”
The new food pantry president is no stranger to charity work, having supported hungry seniors, homeless and low-income families since she was in her twenties. Throughout her life, she has worked with the Cupertino Food Pantry, Meals On Wheels, various homeless shelters, and San Jose’s Sacred Heart Community Center and Harvest Food Bank.
“I was honored to be named president for the Westside Food Pantry,” Soberanis said. “It’s a big responsibility, but I am taking this on because I know I can do this. I will do everything in my power to help the community.”
Westside Food Pantry originally supplied food products to about 15 families when it was launched. Since then, the amount of low-income families has more than tripled throughout the area, which poses many challenges for the organization.
Soberanis, who has worked as an International Standards Operator auditor at NASA and a documentation specialist for government contracts in Santa Clara, said she intends to change many of the food pantry’s functions to ensure efficiency.
For instance, she intends to turn its index card system into a more functional computer-based program to track the amount of patrons and food supplies needed for the Patterson based facility.
She also has begun branching out into the community, linking with local farmers to obtain unsold produce that can be used to help area residents in need.
“Instead of allowing produce to spoil, they will give us whatever they have in abundance,” Soberanis said. “The community is coming together to start a hunger coalition, and several of those resources are found in, or even around the city.”
Soberanis is also networking with various organizations throughout the Central Valley to end hunger in neighboring cities in an effort to help disperse needed items to those most susceptible to hunger.
“I want to make sure this city is recognized for being generous,” Soberanis said. “In the valley, you don’t normally find farmers who realize their spoils will give back to the community. And now, we have. I am proud to be part of this community because of that connection.”
Contact Brooke Borba at 892-6187, ext. 24.