Six days a week, between about 1 and 4 p.m., I head to my city’s oldest college campus that has taught students for going on 105 years, now quiet, seemingly abandoned. It’s not, of course, though nowadays students and teachers like me learn and teach from home. Still, maintenance folks and district police, along with a few hardy administrators and operations people, not to mention construction workers laboring on new buildings, appear at Sacramento City College every day through the pandemic.
As do the cats, the ferals of SCC, some of whom I feed Saturdays through Thursdays. My colleague, physics professor Doug Copely, feeds the cats on Fridays just outside the old portable building where he was teaching before last March when we were all sent home, having no idea when we’d return. (We still have no idea when we’ll return.) I worked in that portable for 20 years before journalism moved to a new building across the campus.
It’s one of two feeding sites on campus, and, as I’ve written elsewhere, the Sacramento City Kitty Committee (so named by my retired colleague Holly Kivlin) continues to feed the ferals that hold down the campus space so others don’t occupy it.
Yesterday, the first Monday of the spring semester, as I pulled into campus next to Hughes Stadium, the 1928 football stadium named for a long-ago school superintendent, I saw masked volunteers waiting by tables, also there for food duty. They do a different kind of feeding as part of the college’s now-monthly food distribution. Students who’ve signed up for various pickup times drive up and, staying in their cars, pop their trunk lids or hatches so volunteers can deposit a box of food from the Sacramento Food Bank.
This is all the doing of Dean of Campus Interventions Andre Coleman and his team who, working from home, have been concerned since last March about food insecurity that they know affects students. Before the campus shutdown, Coleman and his staff, plus volunteers, provided donated food weekly on campus—no questions asked—to all comers. But the shutdown stopped that, and it took Coleman and his staff months to reinstate the first regular food distribution in November.
Now they’re giving food boxes monthly to those who sign up—again, no questions asked—and drive in to receive it.
Of course, all over the region volunteers are participating in food distribution, even during the pandemic—not least through agencies like the Sacramento Food Bank and the River City Food Bank and on-site feeding places such as Loaves and Fishes. Multiply this times thousands of groups doing this across the country, across the world, always, not just in pandemic times, people doing the work of angels.
I watched the teams at work as I fed the ferals, realizing that we were doing the same kind of volunteering at the same time—feeding those who need feeding. I’ve always fed students, too, bringing snacks from home, buying pizza for newspaper staffs, going out for sandwiches. I’m not much of a cook, but I can buy food, and students are always hungry.
Like the cats. For better or worse, I’ve brought a number of cats home over the decades (cats that have been pets do not fare well after being dumped, so we in the Kitty Committee have tried to find them homes). I often tell people I haven’t gone out to purposely acquire a cat in 25 years. Unlike the recipients who pick up food, the cats are champion social distancers and not nearly as grateful. Even across the road at the trailer, I could hear people calling out their thanks after the volunteers closed the open trunks and hatches.
And that made me smile. I rarely see the feral cats; they’re wild animals, after all. But I have gotten to know some of them over the years who’d sneak out and eat, who’d learned the sound of my voice. The food distribution folks and those of us feed the cats don’t require thanks. I’m honored to be part of a campus full of people who believe that feeding the hungry is important enough to show up at a campus closed by a pandemic, to smile behind their masks as they put food boxes in trunks, and wave as the recipients drive off.