Charles Scott’s calendar is defined by food — and helping bring it to those without enough of it.
Drive to the Napa Valley Food Bank before 8 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Set up the fruits and vegetables, then the canned goods, bread, meat and dairy foods. Unload the delivery truck and, if a volunteer or two has failed to show, help the occasional frail or elderly visitor by carrying grocery bags to their cars.
And on one Monday a month, drive another van loaded with groceries to the Napa Valley Senior Center for another food drive serving about three dozen seniors.
For 20 years, the Napa native and onetime schoolteacher has spent much of his retirement transporting supplies for the food programs serving Napa’s low-income and elderly residents. The work has made him friends among clients who often greet him as “Scotty” — a familiarity with a special poignancy that hammers home how much neediness and want exists in a haven of affluent tourism.
“I’m sorry to see so many people needing help; that bothers me,” Scott said recently. “There’s so much food available in our country, there’s no reason for anyone to go hungry. Absolutely none.”
Now 80, Scott is one of the longest-serving helpers with the food bank, which aids more than 700 Napa County residents a month. Having been a volunteer for nearly as long as the 27 years he spent teaching, he describes the value of the work as growing — along with the need — amid a slow economic recovery and rising living costs.
“I’ve become much more aware how many people are in need of assistance,” said Scott, whose father ran a Napa grocery from the late 1930s to the 1950s. “I’d say we’re definitely seeing many more people than when I got started.”
Over the years, Scott has witnessed locals climbing up or down the social ladder, and often passing through the food bank along the way. Balancing the sobering sights of a onetime donor — or former students of his — forced to seek out food relief, he said, are the prouder moments of “losing” a client.
“It makes me happy that once in a while, I can see someone saying ‘My husband is back at work,’ or ‘I’m going back to work, so we won’t have to come here anymore,’” he said with a smile.
Scott admitted his persistence comes as a surprise even to himself, but showed few signs of wanting to slow down.
“It’s hard to say why, but I’ve enjoyed it,” he said of his volunteering. “I’ve had plenty of time, and there’s so many people that seem to be in need — and the food bank always had a hard time finding volunteers who would stick. Many people are OK (helping) for a while, but then they lose interest, or it’s more of a commitment than they really want.
“I might be a funny guy this way, but when I make a commitment, I’m gonna do it.”