Its scope has expanded over the years, but Grey Bears was founded in 1973 to give seniors healthy, fresh food.
Foodie File

Grey Bears and the Perks of Giving Away Free Food

What volunteers get out of food distributions for the needy

Its scope has expanded over the years, but Grey Bears was founded in 1973 to give seniors healthy, fresh food.

For five years now, Paula Selsted has been driving bags of fresh groceries to seniors in need.

We caught up with her this past Thursday, just after she finished her deliveries. Selsted’s spirits were high. On her route, she had, for the first time, met an elderly woman who she’d been delivering to for six months. The woman’s son was pushing her wheelchair as the two got ready to take a stroll. “They were out, and he was getting ready to take her for a walk and push her in a wheelchair,” Selsted says. “I love meeting people for the first time.” 

Grey Bears is participating in GT’s Santa Cruz Gives community giving campaign.

How much time do you spend volunteering a week?

PAULA SELSTED: I usually get there between 7:30 and 8:00 on Thursday morning. It varies. I can be done by 12, or sometimes I’m not done until 2 or 3. It depends on if the people I’m delivering to are up and about, and if I go in and chat with them and talk or do a puzzle or find out what’s going on in their life. Then, it can take me all day.

Why do you do it?

I don’t care what anyone tells you, it’s not really altruistic. You always get something back, and I have discovered that I love seniors. Now, I’m about to turn 65 next year—so I’m considered, quote, “a senior”—but I have had the pleasure of getting to know and become friends with people in their nineties—97, 99. I had a delivery go to someone who was 101. People have such wonderful life stories, and they become your friends. Who doesn’t need extra friends? 

Do you have a favorite fruit or vegetable?

It would have to be peaches. I have a degree in fruit industries. And I always wanted to become a farmer, but back when I was going to school, women weren’t allowed to manage farms. I at least got the nickname “Peaches.”

To learn more about Grey Bears, visit To learn more about the 37 nonprofits participating in Santa Cruz Gives, visit Donations accepted through Dec. 31.

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