People Helping People's upgrades were a long time in the making

Officially, it has taken People Helping People of Los Osos/Baywood four years to finish an improvement project at the South Bay Community Center on Palisades Avenue. But President Richard Margetson said it has taken 40 years of planning and pinching pennies to consolidate operations into one location. 

A free open-house pizza party is scheduled for 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday to celebrate the addition to the community center. Entertainment is by the Big Rock Balalaikas, a Russian folk group. The evening will include a tour of the added facilities and recognition for the contractors who contributed to the project. The People Helping People Person and Volunteer of the Year will be announced. 

Incorporated in 1972 to serve South Bay seniors, the all-volunteer nonprofit distributes food weekly and medical equipment as needed. 

“We also helped build and maintain the South Bay Community Center where our offices are located,” Margetson said. 

Rob Miller of the Wallace Group was the first person Margetson contacted to help build the new facilities. 

“He rallied additional contractor help. Bob Simonson (Simonson Construction Services Inc.) shepherded us through the permitting and building process. It’s taken us four years because we were depending on donated help. The $60,000 project is costing about $35,000.”

“We are indebted to so many over 40 years,” Margetson continued. “This will make food distribution so much more efficient. We’ve been operating out of a garage donated by a generous community member, so we had to load and unload to set up and break down in two locations. Now we’ll be where we distribute each Wednesday.”

When Margetson joined the group in 2002, he said the food distribution attracted 35 to 40 people per week. 

“The last few years, we’ve averaged 75 to 80, and that represents the person in line to pick up the food. We’re probably feeding 200, and I don’t see the lines slowing down,” he said. 

Margetson also mentioned that the group’s collaboration with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County has improved the quality of the food, with more meats and vegetables available. 

Once the addition is fully functional, People Helping People will concentrate on expanding other services for its 175 members. The group coordinates the annual Salvation Army bell ringers and produces the largest annual fundraiser for the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter — the Needs ’N Wishes event scheduled for Dec. 13. 

“We need bell ringers starting Nov. 24,” Margetson said. 

Volunteers can call Margetson at 674-2624 or the People Helping People office at 528-2626 or sign up at the open house.