Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good work: eat lunch in a garden

It’s still tough out there. And with our economic downturn dragging on, the demand for programs and services devoted to helping families and children is increasing. Spending cuts on family and children’s programs have already been severe, and with California’s dire budget predictions, more are undoubtedly on the way.

Okay, so what can one person do? Eat lunch or shop! Huh? Yep. There are programs where you can help children and families just by having lunch or shopping.

So go to lunch at one of these volunteer-run benefit cafes, browse one of their ‘vintage clothing’ shops, and be sure to bring a friend or two. And, of course, make a donation if you can. There are some suggestions of places to visit, below, but be sure to check your local area for similar organizations—they abound.

Sacramento area
Casa Garden Restaurant

Set in a pretty little courtyard edged by a small garden, the volunteer-run Casa Garden restaurant makes a nice ‘ladies lunch’ type of outing. There’s a set menu, with three entree choices, plus beverages (including wine) and dessert. I had the chipotle Caesar chicken salad (delish) and my friends had the chicken in filo with cheese (outstanding, they said); for dessert, I had a light and chocolate mousse cake. Total per person: about $12, plus tax and tip.

The Mission: "The mission of the Sacramento Children’s Home is “to provide care and treatment for troubled and abused children, to enable families to meet the needs of their children, and to assist these children in becoming productive, responsible adults. Founded in 1973, the Los Ninos Service League has operated Casa Garden Restaurant to provide ongoing financial and moral support to the children and families served by the Sacramento Children's Home."

The Los Ninos Service League is the Auxiliary of the Sacramento Children’s Home. The Casa Garden Restaurant is staffed by volunteers (except for a professional kitchen manager and attendant personnel). Food is planned and prepared by volunteers and the dining room is staffed by volunteer servers and hostesses, and even the gardens are planted and maintained by volunteers.
Get involved: Easy: Let’s do lunch! Open Monday - Friday 11:30 am - 1:30 pm (Reservations recommended, call 916/ 452-2809). They’re at: 2760 Sutterville Rd., Sacramento.
Harder: Or volunteer to work at the restaurant. They need kitchen crew, servers, wine servers, cashiers, gardeners, and weekend workers for special events. Check

Similar organizations helping children

Bay Area
Allied Arts Guild of Menlo Park, CA.

Don’t miss a stop at the beautiful and historic Allied Arts Guild in spring. The gardens look like something straight out of Sunset Magazine. The site is owned and operated by the Allied Arts Guild Auxiliary, and it is a real garden oasis, an enclave of unique shops, artists' studios, and Café Primavera (open for special events and for catering).

Their mission: “Since 1929, Allied Arts Guild has provided an inspiring environment for working artists, beautiful gardens and shops for visitors, and support for critically ill children at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Allied Arts Auxiliary is an organization, which has been created for the purpose of promoting the health, welfare, maintenance, and care of children, and acquiring funds to be donated for the benefit of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. The Auxiliary owns and operates the historic Allied Arts Guild; all property and income of the Auxiliary is held solely for the purpose of supporting the Hospital.”
Get Involved
Easy: shop here or sign up for their services at special events such as weddings, receptions, seminars, meetings and luncheons on site. Donate to their program here.

Peninsula Family Service
Their mission: to transform lives through “innovative community service programs for children, families, and older adults. Services are provided to all children, families, and older adults who need a hand-up, not a handout, regardless of their ability to pay”. Peninsula Family Service (PFS) has three private, non-profit auxiliaries (Foothill, Hillsborough, Red-CA-Bel auxiliaries) whose events and activities supply an essential funding lifeline to PFS programs.
Get Involved

Easy: Shop at their retail store (or donate items), a vintage clothing and collectibles boutique called The Family Tree at 1589 Laurel St., San Carlos.
Harder: Or volunteer to work at their retail boutique or work with children, families, or with seniors, from being a teacher’s assistant to serving hot lunches. To find out more, Contact Manny Chargualaf by phone at 403.4300 ext 4417 or via email at

Assistance League
The mission: “Assistance League is a national nonprofit organization that puts caring and commitment into action through community-based philanthropic programs. Unlike most national charities, our focus is on local chapter needs first. Assistance League's programs for children are wide and varied. We help build a foundation for learning by providing underprivileged children with new clothing, shoes and school supplies so they can arrive in the classroom ready to learn. Another program gives teddy bears to hospitalized children and young trauma victims as a "friend" to help comfort them and speed recovery.”
Get Involved Easy: Shop at an AL thrift shop, for example the AL of Orange has one called Now & Again, 20 Plaza Square, Orange; 714/532-5800.
Harder: Or volunteer to work at the thrift store, or join/ participate in their philanthropic programs, from bingo nights to providing teddy bears for children in distress. Find a local chapter of the Assistance League by going to their website.

: Note that we don't endorse any organization, but we encourage you to carefully look into any group to which you plan to donate time or money.

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