The event marks the final one for beloved Loaves & Fishes coordinator and “surrogate mother” Gerri Dunham, who will retire on June 14. Dunham founded the event with “surrogate son” Jody James Watkins, the CEO of Watkins Landmark.
SAN DIEGO — San Diego-based Watkins Landmark Construction will host the fifth-annual Cheryl Anne Watkins Memorial Pantry Day at Loaves & Fishes (1984 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., Ocean Beach) on May 29, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., which will provide food, clothes, and toiletries to those in need.
The memorial was created by WLC CEO Jody James Watkins and Gerri Dunham, the coordinator of Loaves & Fishes Pantry, in 2014. Through their work in building this memorial to Watkins’ mother, both he and Dunham have built a deep relationship.
This will be Dunham’s final memorial as she will step down from her position as a coordinator on June 14 but still intends to be involved with Loaves & Fishes afterward.
It all started when WLC was renovating the Episcopal Church Center in Ocean Beach, where Loaves & Fishes is based. Because much of the work took place where Loaves & Fishes operates, the WLC staff assisted so their service was not compromised.
Dunham sent a letter to Watkins to praise his staff for helping Loaves & Fishes during the renovation. Watkins arranged to meet Dunham soon after.
“It was the biggest hug I got from a stranger, and that sealed the deal,” Dunham said.
Around that time, Watkins had lost his mother, Cheryl Anne to cancer, leading to a difficult grieving period. Watkins would confide in Dunham how much he was struggling with his loss.
“He was really grieving,” Dunham said. “That started our friendship off and it’s built to where it is today, and it’s beautiful. He calls me his surrogate mom and he’s my surrogate son.”
In addition to Dunham, Watkins was also talking to a grief counselor. As the one-year anniversary of his mother’s passing approached, Watkins’ counselor advised him to do something to honor his mother.
Cheryl Anne Watkins lost her battle with breast cancer in 2013. Cheryl was a very dedicated Christian, loving mother, devoted wife, and friend to everyone in the community. She dedicated much of her time to helping those in need. Her loss has been heavily mourned and deeply felt by many people. This memorial held in her honor helps raise money and supplies for Loaves & Fishes, who directly help the homeless community of San Diego, as well as others in need.
“It’s something the clients look forward to the minute it happens,” Dunham said. “They so look forward to seeing him. The ones who come in for his memorial have been treated so well. It’s a beautiful thing to experience.”
In addition to the memorial, Dunham and Watkins attend church together and talk three times a week.
“She felt it was her calling to help me through that grief process,” Watkins said. “It’s more than a friendship.
“It gives you a belief in God, it really does.”
ABOUT WATKINS LANDMARK CONSTRUCTION
Jody James Watkins started Watkins Landmark Construction in 2004 with the goal of building and creating “landmark” projects within the communities they serve. Watkins Landmark has grown into two offices that serve all Southern California and is home to over 50 employees. WLC has projects ranging in size and scope from as large as the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, located out in the Inland Empire and home to the world-famous BNP Paribas Open, to smaller charitable projects for Loaves and Fishes to improve their office spaces in San Diego. WLC’s clients have included Marriott, Holiday Inn, and Cinemark Theaters. WLC has also customized restaurants for world-renown chefs such as Wolfgang Puck (Spago) and Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (Nobu).
ABOUT LOAVES & FISHES PANTRY
Ocean Beach Emergency Food Inc, also known as Loaves & Fishes Pantry, began in 1977 to provide food for hungry people in the Ocean Beach and Peninsula area. Area churches and community organizations came together to open the first pantry at the Women’s Club.
Over 40 years later, the Pantry continues to help provide food to over 300 people per month in the 92106, 92107, and 92110 area codes. Loaves & Fishes also collects and distributes clothes and toiletries for the homeless people in the Ocean Beach community and surrounding areas.
Loaves & Fishes Pantry is sustained by monetary support from churches, organizations, and individual contributions. The Pantry also welcomes food contributions. Food is purchased from Feeding San Diego, Stumps Family Marketplace, and Costco. For more information, go to www.sdloavesandfishes.org or email [email protected]