Each morning for the past month, psychologist Richard Heckler and his partner Karen head straight into Heckler’s colorful, hand-painted kitchen in the small beach town of Bolinas in Marin County. They grab some flour, sourdough starter and yeast and begin their day of baking for the seniors and food-insecure locals in their town.
“Richard, my partner in crime, and I were talking about who we could give [our bread] to … we decided to use Nextdoor to see if there was interest because there’s a large number of seniors in Bolinas,” Karen explained.” We thought, What if we could bake bread everyday and see if somebody wants some?”
The couple named their hobby Bad Monk Bread Company and their product “paind’emic,” riffing on the French word for bread (pain) and “emic” which, they explained, stems from an anthropological term relating to culture.
“You can look at it as the culture of Bolinas, this weird town, or the culture of sourdough,” Karen said. “I thought that was hilarious.”
Seeking to ease some of the fear and anxiety surrounding the coronavirus, the pair started delivering homemade bread with a personalized note, hoping to spread a little love to those who need it most during this unsettling time.
“The question was: Out of our love for each other, what can we do to help other people? And it became kind of a simple, modest, response where we baked bread,” Heckler said. “The first day we got requests for four loaves and the second day we got requests for four more. I think there’s only been one day in three weeks where we didn’t give away anything.”
Most of the residents who reach out are individuals who cannot leave the house and require other people to shop for them, or those who are food insecure and do not have the resources to purchase enough food. Heckler wanted to relieve some of the worry for these members of the community.
“They’ll be feeling everything that everybody else will be feeling: scared, uncertain, worried about their own health,” he said. “But, they’ll be doing it most likely alone, without resources that other people have, or without other family.”
According to Heckler, most of the people he and Karen deliver to are over 80 years old and are considered to be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. (The couple also delivers bread to the local food bank.)
With each offering, they attach a note that lists the ingredients of the loaf, and a poem for an extra personal touch. And they’ve received some heartwarming responses.
“Sometimes they leave us little things like a bottle of wine or a book, which is really sweet,” said Karen. “Once we got ‘You’re an angel,’ and it feels like you’re giving a little bit of comfort to somebody in a really difficult time.
“I think that everyone is generous somewhere in themselves, and everyone has something to give. It’s a very simple thing. Any small kindness or consideration in these times are a little bit huge,” she said, before adding, “I don’t think you have to know how to do anything, but offer help … There’s always a way to help because there’s always a need.”