Noble Folk CEO feeds hundreds of Sonoma County farm workers during Kincade fire
When Ozzy Jimenez heard there were hundreds of immigrant farmworkers at the Cloverdale fairgrounds during the Kincade fire, stuck without power or food, he sprang into action.
The 32-year-old CEO of Noble Folk Ice Cream & Pie Bar in Healdsburg and Santa Rosa coordinated with multiple agencies to deliver fresh meals on Oct. 29 within hours of hearing about the stranded workers. And he got the word out to the Latino community through bilingual radio station KBBF and social media about more food deliveries around Sonoma County.
“We were kind of filling the needs, the gaps, right as everything was kind of being chaotic in those first couple of days,” said Jimenez, a Santa Rosa native.
Jimenez is credited by nonprofit leaders and community members for his efficiency in communicating and delivering food in the midst of the chaos of the Kincade fire, which led to the evacuation of 190,000 county residents. The son of a farmworker with Mexican roots, Jimenez helped coordinate the delivery of 500 meals the week of the fire, according to Sonoma Family Meal founder Heather Irwin.
“As things progressed, and more and more people were evacuated, Ozzy had a line on where there were true needs,” Irwin said. “He realized that there were many people afraid to go to the evacuation centers, staying in cars or going to churches or staying with friends. He asked if we could help feed them, which was of course a yes.”
When Jimenez arrived at the Cloverdale fairgrounds with food and his life and business partner of 10 years, Christian Sullberg, they had planned to drop off the food and go. But the Cloverdale fairgrounds weren’t a designated evacuation center. It was a place immigrant workers went to instead of Santa Rosa, where they feared questions about their documentation status.
“There were no people in charge, so we started serving all the people,” Sullberg said. “I remember looking at Ozzy and he was just kind of in his element helping people get food.”
After he left Cloverdale, Jimenez posted about it on Facebook.
“It’s hard not to get emotional today. It’s not about press or recognition but about getting boots on the ground helping (people) most in need,” he wrote.
His trip to Cloverdale was just one evening of helping during a frenzied week where he volunteered his time in any way he could from as early as 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. or later on some nights.
Before Healdsburg was evacuated, he volunteered at the Healdsburg Community Center to facilitate intake and translate Dutch Brothers drink orders for migrant workers.
He used helped distribute food outside of the KBBF station, where he also put out the word about more meals coming.
KBBF director Edgar Avila met Jimenez that week, and in his interaction with him he said it was clear Jimenez was dedicated to helping others.
“He handled difficult situations in not only a strategic manner but also calm and collected,” Avila said in an email.
He also coordinated deliveries to senior centers and worked with the American Red Cross.
When Jimenez needed to-go containers and utensils, he posted it on Facebook and got a response from Drea White, who works in wine and beer at Andy’s Produce Market in Sebastopol and has known Jimenez for about five years. She coordinated with her colleagues to donate 300 to-go boxes and plastic cutlery within two hours.
“I just appreciate the work that Ozzy and Christian both do,” White said. “He (Ozzy) gets the work done and fulfills the need of the community.”
Jenny Chamberlain, district director representing county Supervisor James Gore, was another integral person in getting the food distributed.
She arranged for veteran firefighter Cyndi Foreman to escort Jimenez twice that week, including on a run to receive 3,000 tortillas from La Tortilla Factory.
Chamberlain met Jimenez nearly a decade ago through the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She said his Mexican roots play a role in his motivation to give back to the community.
“He’s part of the Latinx community. We’re used to giving, it’s our culture to give,” Chamberlain said. “He’s always had a heart for others.”
Evan Wiig, director of membership and communications at the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, helped coordinate food donations from local farms. He met Jimenez during the Kincade fire.
“He’s just ready to get to work; that’s the kind of people I like to work with. Here’s how we’re gonna make it happen, what I can do for you, what can you do for me,” Wiig said. “A disaster requires people taking action even in the face of uncertainty and chaos. Some get overwhelmed, but he just immediately picks it up.”
Wiig and Jimenez said without Sonoma Family Meal, the food distribution wouldn’t be possible.
“Ozzy is a person who isn’t afraid to just jump in. He’s smart, and understands how to coordinate an effort rather than try to duplicate efforts for his own vanity. I think that his giant heart, his connection to an underserved population and ability to bridge between different people is what makes him so special,” said Irwin, Sonoma Family Meal founder.
Jimenez said he just tried to “fill the gap” with his volunteer work during the fire.
“There’s just something very special about Sonoma County and the way we help each other,” he said.