Charity Stripe: Softball’s Nakken helps food shelter

State Hornet Staff

If Woodland residents fall on hard times and get to the point where they cannot afford to feed their families, they can turn to the Woodland Volunteer Food Closet in hope of finding relief. And those who have sought help in the past may have received their aid directly from the hand of Sacramento State senior softball player Alyssa Nakken. 

For more than a decade, Nakken has volunteered at the Food Closet in her hometown that has been helping families in crisis for more than 40 years. 

Nakken got involved sometime around the age of 7 or 8 because her mother was a volunteer at the Food Closet. For several years, before coming to Sac State, she spent every Monday afternoon helping her mother minister to others in need. 

“When I see people struggling, it’s just really hard to even imagine living the way they do,” Nakken said. “So I really like making a difference in those people’s lives.” 

The Food Closet began serving the Woodland community in 1968. It gives aid on a referral basis by allotting three-day rations of nutritionally balanced foods to those who qualify. 

According to the Food Bank of Yolo County, it has been estimated more than 40 million Americans are not sure where their next meal will come from – approximately 30,000 of which reside in Yolo county. 

When Nakken was 11 years old, she met one such resident when a boy who shared her childhood affection for basketball came to the Food Closet with his mother. By talking with the boy, Nakken came to learn whenever the boy and his brother could find a ball they would play the game using garbage cans as makeshift hoops. 

Nakken said this was difficult to grasp for a girl who had her very own hoop at home. 

“Honestly, you don’t realize how good you have it until you see something like that,” Nakken said. “You start not taking the little things in life for granted.” 

Alyssa’s mother, Gaye Nakken, has served at the Food Closet for more than 20 years and has been its director for the past 12 years. She said seeing these realities left an indelible impression on her daughter.  

“I think it opened her eyes to another world that she didn’t know existed,” Gaye Nakken said. “I think it made her a more compassionate person and more understanding about how life can be.” 

Food Closet volunteer Debbie Hoppin said experiences like these are what keep volunteers like Nakken at the food closet.

 “Being able to look people in the eye, hand them their three-day supply of food and say, ‘Good luck to you, things are going to get better and we’re here for you.’ That’s why I won’t give up being a volunteer,” Hoppin said.

Nakken said volunteering at the Food Closet has shown her how imperative it is to be generous toward those in need. She said she hopes more people will consider volunteering wherever genuine needs exist in the community and encourages everyone to keep something in mind. 

“You will never walk away from somebody saying, ‘Dang, I shouldn’t have given that to them.’ But sometimes you do walk away thinking, ‘Crap, I could’ve helped them, and I could’ve done this for them,’” Nakken said. “You will never regret being too generous, but sometimes you can regret not being generous.”

David Somers can be reached at [email protected]