Fork it over!
Phil Coombes, CEO of The Fork Foundation, asks residents to donate food for Union Station Homeless Services
On Halloween 2009, friends of Altadena Coffee Gallery owner Bob Stane erected an 18-foot tall fork in a grassy knoll framed by St. Johns and Pasadena avenues as a surprise for his 75th birthday. They had no way of knowing then the clever pun and its resultant joke would morph into a serious symbol of activism and advocacy in the community.
Chalk it up to the vision of Phil Coombes, local real estate agent and one of the original forkers. When he looked at the sculpture, he recognized its potential to attract and perhaps galvanize awareness among onlookers.
“Once we put it up, I said, ‘Look, we’ve got to do something good with this thing,’” he recalls.
In a matter of weeks, Coombes and company had organized the first “Put the Fork in Hunger” food drive near the sculpture to benefit Pasadena’s Union Station Homeless Services, which hands out more than 166,000 meals to men, women and children each year.
This weekend, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., volunteers will gather there again to collect non-perishable food items for Dinner in the Park, which is expected to feed some 5,000 homless people on Thanksgiving Day.
“The needs of homeless and poor people are numerous and complex, but the most basic and essential need is for an adequate amount of food,” says Dana Bean, interim director of development at Union Station. “Last year, Put the Fork in Hunger collected 5 tons of food.”
The success of the food drives, along with toy drives for children in need held during the holidays, spawned the creation of the nonprofit Fork Foundation, of which Coombes is CEO. The group could soon seek national status and raise funds, goods and awareness for a range of important causes. But in the meantime, even though the fork has been stuck in Pasadena, the good will here at home is far from done.
“The whole reason I started this charity was to be an advocacy group,” Coombes says. “But there’s no reason, doing charity events, you can’t have fun with it.”
The “Put the Fork in Hunger” food drive, featuring 95.5 KLOS radio, will be held Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, at Fork Plaza, 200 Bellefontaine St., Pasadena. Non-perishable food items can be dropped off with a curbside volunteer. For more information, visit PutTheForkInHunger.com or call (626) 644-3227. “Like” the drive on Facebook at facebook.com/PutTheForkInHunger.