Mad River Union
TRINIDAD – Yes, his name is really Bruce Wayne. Yes, he’s a handsome man who drives a sleek, black car.
Batman lives in Trinidad and he’s fighting hunger, not crime. Bruce Wayne doesn’t mind the superhero teasing. He’ll put up with anything to help an organization he loves: Food for People.
“I’ve volunteered for Food for People since 2015, right after I retired,” he explained. “I’d spent a couple of months trying to figure out how to spend my newly found free time. I wanted to combine helping out as best I could but also get as much physical labor as possible,” he said.
Wayne has been loading and unloading boxes of produce every week at the Food for People warehouse for five years.
“It’s hands-on labor,” he said. “We sort out the raw materials as they come in from farms and stores. We do whatever we can, for example, we clean and strip boxes of onions, anything to help the regular staff.”
He likes the three-hour shifts for the exercise but he also enjoys the camaraderie with the other volunteers. He has gotten to know “quite a few folks, including younger people from Humboldt State.”
“I find it refreshing to get to know the younger point of view,” he said.
Wayne was actually named for the Scots king, Robert the Bruce, but he has always gone by Bruce. The super hero thing has never made him uncomfortable. “One of the ways I would try to get the juries to go my way was to let them know in my opening statement that the Batman would be telling them the truth in this trial.”
Since the pandemic, volunteers over the age of 65 have been sidelined from the warehouse because of health risks. That hasn’t stopped Wayne. He’s on the board of directors and works as a member of the capital campaign committee for Food for People’s rebuilding effort.
“I joined the board at their invitation in 2019,” he said, “and I’ve been working non-stop since that time doing special projects on behalf of the board.”
Wayne had a 41-year career in Southern California as a trial attorney, focusing on business litigation.
“I gave up my ticket when I retired but I try to act as the best advisor on the board and as a liaison to other attorneys. There have been a lot of legal issues with the sewer backup and construction contracts.”
(In February 2020, a city sewer malfunction forced the closure of the Food for People building at 14th Street in Eureka. It has since been demolished.)
So far, Food for People has raised $4 million to rebuild. “We’re looking for that last million to not only reconstruct the building but also to get additional warehouse space which we will need in the future,” Wayne said. “The capital campaign is really an important project for the entire county – to get us back operational and to expand services to the far reaches of the county. Donations are really appreciated and very much needed.”
In the meantime the organization is using rented space to continue its services. “One of the things I’m so impressed with is that Anne Holcomb and her staff have kept the programs going, even without facilities. We are lucky to have her,” Wayne said.
Food for People offers so many ways to get food distributed: Backpacks for Kids, Senior and Homebound Delivery, a network of 17 Food Pantries as far north as Orick, south to Garberville and east to Willow Creek, Hoopa, and Dinsmore, free Summer Lunch for Kids and more. Access to healthy and nutritious foods is what it is all about, whether through Free Produce markets, a gleaning program, or a nutrition education component.
“We don’t do it for the compliments,” Wayne said, “but every once in a while someone will pull you aside and give you a heartfelt thank you. We are providing the necessities of life to people.”
And the money raised is well spent. Food for People has always had a reputation as a no frills operation. Staff members don’t have fancy offices.
“Having seen how the operation works, the finances, the stewardship of funds by a dedicated staff, I believe that it is one of the most efficient organizations I’ve been involved with,” Wayne said.
Wayne and his wife Katherine moved to Trinidad in 2006. “We thought it was a beautiful place to slow down and enjoy life,” Wayne said with a chuckle. “Katherine has volunteered with every group she’s come in contact with; she’s on the St. Joseph advisory board, she’s volunteered at the gift shops at both St. Joe’s and Mad River Hospital, she’s active with the Trinidad Civic Club, worked on the Clam Beach Run, with the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce, and now she’s helping in the office of the county animal shelter.”
(As a fellow member of the Trinidad Civic Club, I can say that Katherine is the one you want on your project AND she’s the one you want to sit next to at a party. She’s both hardworking and hilarious.)
During our interview, Katherine was participating in an online Spanish class. The Waynes keep busy and, really, both qualify as super heroes.They’ve been married since 1980 and Bruce Wayne said, “time flies when you are having a good time.”
Anne Holcomb, executive director for Food for People, feels lucky to have Wayne on board. “Since he joined the board, he has been a fabulous board member,” she said. “He’s passionate about what he does.”
“When I first met Bruce he showed up to work in the warehouse in his old sweatshirt (which was totally appropriate),” she recalled. “I had no idea he was a retired attorney. It was fun getting to know him over time. Now, as we are rebuilding, there are so many regulatory issues and he’s been a tremendous help.”
Wayne is careful about not practicing law without a license but no one has revoked his humor license. “I’ll say to Anne, ‘DO NOT rely on my legal advice but here’s the story...’,” he said.
After all, 41 years of experience combined with common sense can still be valuable. Did Batman ever retire? Just sayin’.
Food for People
P. O. Box 4922
Eureka, CA 95502
To donate stocks or to make a pledge, contact Carly Robbins (707) 445-3166, ext.306, [email protected]