Local Community Helpers Series: Recognizing Reverend Dr. Arlene Nehring

This week we honor the extraordinary community contributions of Reverend Dr. Arlene Nehring of Eden United Church of Christ.


Arlene was nominated particularly in recognition of her work with church’s community partnership Comida Para Cherryland, which has been providing resources to the community starting almost a decade ago.

The project began through a series of bilingual community meetings that included local community leaders, a group of parent associations, and elected leaders making it a unique multi-faith, multipurpose partnership. The program was created initially to look at ways to address violence and improve safety in the area. 

“From the moment Arlene interviewed at Eden Church and the committee took her around the neighborhood, she said ‘We need to understand the community,’” said her partner, Stephanie Spencer. “For her, the church is not just a building and it’s not just on Sundays. It’s really a part of the community.”

Where were the gaps? What were the needs? Why were kids getting involved with gangs? The community participated in a longer form assessment and Comida Para Cherryland was born. 

Volunteers from all over the Eden Area have been regularly gathering to sort food donations and fresh produce, which have come through partnerships with the Alameda County Food Bank, food drives, and individual donations.

Volunteers sort and prepare the food, and before shelter-in-place, Eden Church would provide after-school help with homework and a safe place for local kids to hang out. 

Before social distancing restrictions the “Comida,” one volunteer affectionately called the program, would serve around 100 families, or between 500 to 700 people every other week.  

Now the program serves closer to 400 families, which puts the count closer to 1,500 people.

Here’s what some of the folks in the community had to say about Arlene.

““So many people, not just the recipients, value this work. Until the shut-down more than a dozen people volunteered every time ‘The Comida’ happened, and these were not people that took home food. Lots in the community feel that this work is important.”

As a teacher who works with  English learners, I know how important this resource is for the folks who use it. Comida Para Cherryland was already feeding a lot of people, but they’re also providing for people who are going through incredible difficulties, especially now. She’s helping people who are experiencing food insecurity. Arlene’s program has been steadfast in being a provider.” 

“From the beginning, she said we need to understand the community, engage, be a resource, act out of our faith values, and see what kind of a partner the church can be. I think really her genius is just seeing potential and bringing people together.”

“She’s good at building bridges between people who may not think they have anything in common.”

“If everyone is thriving then we all do better. The people Eden has partnered with for the last almost 20 years– they work hard and don’t expect anyone to give them anything. They work together to make the community better.” 

Arlene, we are so grateful you are a member of our community and we are honored to let you know how special you are to those around you. Keep up the good work.