Bay Area Proud

Palo Alto Girl Distributes ‘Italian Dinner Kits' for Families in Need

Tessa Berney's desire to help one local family turned into dozens of meals for Peninsula Family Service

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Tessa Berney is a very polite 10 year old. Ask her how she's doing and Tessa will respond with a simple, "pretty good."

Scratch the surface, though, and ask the Palo Alto sixth-grader what life has really been like over the past seven months and she'll be honest. "Bad ... bad."

Sheltering at home and learning away from school has not made for a fun year. Tessa said she's rarely seen her best friend in person since the pandemic started.

It's enough to keep anyone's spirits low, but Tessa, it seems, understands that the best way to raise one's spirits is to lift those of someone else.

It's why Tessa has spent the past few weeks packing bag after bag of her "Italian Dinner Kits" — donated food meant for families struggling during the pandemic. It started, Tessa said, when her mother told her about a local family of four having trouble putting food on the table.

"I thought I wanted to help these people but I can't just write a check and like cash it at the bank," Tessa said. "I can't do that."

What she could do, however, is post on her mother's Nextdoor account, asking for people. And help she got. A lot of it.

Enough food for more than 60 meals has been dropped off at her doorstep, food Tessa has now donated to Peninsula Family Service.

"This is fantastic," said Tony Jara, Advancement and Volunteer Coordinator at PFS, as he arrived to collect the donations.

It is probably not the biggest donation they will get this year but it certainly is one of the most meaningful because, while the pandemic will end one day, it's a good bet that Tessa is just getting started.

"I think I went beyond my capabilities. I'm really proud of myself," she said.

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