Cancer survivor helps feed working poor

Jefferson Award-winner Beth Yale
SOMIS, Calif. When it comes to good will, Beth Yale's cupboard is full.

"Amazing, fantastic, wonderful woman. I get goose bumps," said Jeanne Benitez, a food share volunteer.

At /*Somis Elementary School*/, Beth and her childhood friend Julia started a food pantry to help feed needy local families.

Every Monday, Beth rolls into the local Food Share ready to shop for a community.

She quickly loads dry food items onto her cart, most costing just 18 cents a pound. In the refrigerated room, she gets vegetables and dairy products for free. The food is then stored at the school, where families in need come once a month.

"They are ecstatic," said Beth. "Many of them are very, very quiet and timid, but their eyes light up."

With distribution day next week, the cabinets are nearly filled with items like peanut butter and jelly, cereal, soups, pasta, rice and beans.

There are two freezers with several different types of meats and cheeses.

Families under economic stress will take home five bags of food.

"All of us that are participating in the pantry realize it could be us," said Beth. "It's not only the people that are identified as the working poor, but it is the middle class or even the upper middle class that has gotten in trouble."

Beth started the food pantry at Somis Elementary School about a year and a half ago. In the town of fewer than 3,000 people, the pantry feeds about 65 families a month.

Beth has been helping needy families for two decades. She works 20 to 30 hours a week. She also gets help from local businesses and volunteers to help those going through a difficult time.

"I was diagnosed with cancer at age 37," said Beth. "And my girls were young, they were 5 and 9. And at that point in my life, I thought, 'If I survive this, there's got to be something that I do that's really worthwhile in my lifetime.'"

"I heard about the Jefferson Award by watching KABC news, and thought to myself, 'I know somebody who's absolutely perfect for this,'" said Somis Elementary School Principal Patricia Pape.

"She's a hero. A real hero," said Jeanne Benitez.

And Beth Yale is also this month's Jefferson Award winner.

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.