By Joseph Pimentel, Spectrum News 1
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The coronavirus pandemic has been a nightmare ordeal, Anaheim White House Chef Bruno Serato said.
But despite his Italian restaurant’s struggles to deal with the forced shutdowns and limited capacity restrictions this past year, Serato never thought of wavering on his commitment to feeding underprivileged children through this whole pandemic.
“We never stopped feeding the kids,” Serato said to Spectrum News.
On Monday, Serato’s Caterina’s Club will serve their two millionth free meal since the coronavirus pandemic began and six millionths since starting the nonprofit in 2005.
Typically, pre-pandemic, the nonprofit serves about one million children annually at Boys and Girls Club and other nonprofits across Orange and Los Angeles counties.
But this past year was no ordinary year.
“This pandemic, we weren’t only feeding kids, but their families,” he said. “Many of their moms and dads lost their jobs. Anaheim is one of the hardest-hit places. Look at Disneyland, all of the hotels, Angel Stadium, and the convention center closing. Thousands of people lost their jobs.”
Serato founded Caterina’s Club in 2005. He named the foundation after his mother, Caterina, who, as the story goes, was with her son visiting a local Boys and Girls Club when she saw a young boy eating potato chips for dinner. She encouraged her son to make him a warm pasta meal, and seeing the need for other kids in the same situation, gave birth to Serato’s mission to feeding underprivileged children.
Serato’s nonprofit has grown from feeding kids to providing affordable housing assistance and job training to underprivileged and homeless families throughout Southern California.
Serato said he’s thankful for donors who continued to donate through this ordeal.
“When I see everything that’s happening now, I thank my mom for teaching me to be who I am,” he said. “There are times through this pandemic that a mom or grandmother comes up to me and says, ‘We pray for Caterina.’ When you see that, my heart just cries, and I’m thankful that I am capable of helping them.”
Serato and his staff will be handing out food, groceries, and toys at a drive-by food distribution event at 2 p.m. Monday at the Anaheim White House in Anaheim. Anyone who is food insecure is encouraged to drive by and pick up food.