To Mark Hiza, his volunteer work is simple to explain.
“I’m just feeding the poor, that’s it,” Hiza, 52, said.
While this Napa resident holds a day job as a government affairs camera operator with the county, his passion is volunteering.
Hiza said he spends about 10 hours each weekend on various volunteer efforts, most notably two food programs he organizes. “Even as a kid I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Hiza said. “We’re on this earth to help people.”
On Saturdays, Hiza gets up before 7 a.m. and heads to Vallerga’s where he collects between 300 and 500 pounds of donated produce from the grocery store.
He gets a plain white piece of paper with a series of first names scrawled on it, then folded into a small rectangle that fits in his pocket serves as the “database” for Hiza’s produce delivery program.
The names of the needy have come to him by word of mouth, he said. They include senior citizens, folks with disabilities, single mothers and low-income families. Pointing to each name on the list, Hiza describes the circumstances each faces.
Loading up the produce into a borrowed van, Hiza makes the rounds, personally dropping off the food at homes from Vallejo to as far away as Lake County. He gives food to Rainbow House and the Hope Center in Napa too. More than 200 people every Saturday get a produce delivery, he said.
Many recipients write him notes or say ”thank you,” he said. “The majority are so appreciative,” he said. “Some people don’t say anything, which is fine, I’m OK with that. To me, this is my mission.”
On Sundays, Hiza can be found serving a meal at the Hope Center in downtown Napa. After realizing many homeless don’t have an opportunity for a meal on Sunday, he has helped organize the weekly meal for more than a year.
“I cook, others cook,” he said. “It’s always been hot food.”
Over the past year, he estimated he and other volunteers from local churches and other organizations have fed 1,452 people.
“You have to stop and think about it,” he said. “As bad a day you are having, the people you are looking at are much worse off than you are. It really humbles you.”
A member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Hiza said his motivation to serve the community comes from “a connection to God.” But this wasn’t a dramatic revelation or message received, he said.
“A shining light didn’t come down and say, ‘You need to do this,’ but in my heart I know this is what I’m supposed to do.
“You don’t question it. You just do it.”