Caindec family provides homemade meals to shelter

Kayla Aldridge

It’s 4 p.m. on a Monday, and the Caindec family is preparing their home-cooked meal to bring to the homeless shelter. The Caindecs have been volunteering through their church as a part of the Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (REST) for more than five years.

REST was helped found in 2009 by junior Emily Caindec’s father, Keal, and the Caindecs have volunteered consistently ever since.


REST was created because Marin’s existing shelter system was overcrowded, and it is a partnership by over 40 congregations in the city, as well as Marin County Health & Human Services. The 20 women and 40 homeless men in the program receive shelter, sleeping bags, and mats from the congregations where they sleep for the night.

The volunteer season runs for five months, beginning on Nov. 15 and ending on April 15. Junior Emily Caindec volunteers from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday nights with her family and four or five other volunteers, and brings food to the 40 homeless men only.

Despite Caindec’s volunteer efforts in feeding these men, the REST program’s main role is to provide shelter for it’s guests.

According to Walker Bonspille, Director of the REST program, part of this organization’s aim is to help transition the homeless from a state of instability towards more permanent housing options.

REST serves in a variety of different locations, but the homeless men check in at St. Vincent de Paul in San Rafael and are then bussed off to whichever location is serving the food that given night.

“You wouldn’t really expect to have a lot of fun sitting with homeless men eating dinner, but it taught me a lot and I really enjoy it,” Caindec said.

Although Caindec is usually too busy with her after school activities to help cook the food with the rest of her family, she usually joins them at the shelter to help serve it.

“People from our church usually sign up through a Google doc to either cook, volunteer, or both,” Caindec said.

Caindec said that she also enjoys socializing and talking with the homeless men.

“We would sit at the tables with them and they’d just talk to you. A lot of the men there don’t really have a lot of people they can talk to, and they just want somebody to listen to their story,” Caindec said.

Caindec said the most valuable lesson volunteering has taught her is the importance of helping others.

“Volunteering with them reminds you that there are so many different paths in life and that anything is possible, so you really have to support everybody because you never know what’s going to happen,” Caindec said.

Despite what Caindec believes many may think, most of the men who seek the services provided by REST grew up in a comfortable environment.

“They all had really similar upbringings [to people in Marin],” Caindec said. “Most of the men there had a really good life before and either made bad decisions or were just unlucky. They’re now in a position where they’re trying to get help.”

Caindec said that the homeless people often give her advice on everyday things.

“They’re all really nice. We got to know each other, and they’d give me advice on anything from sports to academics,” Caindec said. “They’d say, ‘Oh, Emily, you’re a junior, so you’re going to Prom soon! Make sure your Prom date is someone you will have fun with,’ or, ‘This is how you should run for track.’”

According to Caindec, some of the homeless people at REST are Redwood graduates.

“Three of the guys that I got to know went to Redwood. One of them was on the soccer team, one of them played baseball, and the other ran track,” Caindec said.

Drop in visits are not allowed, and guests must register ahead of time if they would like to be a participant in the REST program.