Those of us who don’t live on the West Coast often connect the “O.C.” with tv shows about rich kids whose problems include not being able to get the “big” Lexus and their sisters scuffing their new Jimmy Choos. But Garrett Dunbar, President and CEO of the Orange County Burrito Project has seen just how real the O.C. can get, and he’s doing something to fix it.
Dunbar became passionate about helping the homeless when he showed up for his first day at a law school internship in Santa Ana and saw 500 homeless people living on the streets outside of county buildings. Buildings, he noted, filled with people who were supposed to be working to combat homelessness. Hearing his supervisors and other government officials tell him “someone’s working on it” was unacceptable, so he decided to do a little digging to get to the root of the issue.
The upstart student went to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office where he was given a card for the county’s mental health services department. He quickly realized that if there were any resources for the homeless, the department’s Web site full of broken links would certainly not help the homeless find them, if they could even get access to computers. Dunbar realized the only solution was to take matters into his own hands — by starting the OC Burrito Project.
In a world where charitable orgs are often needlessly complex, Dunbar’s concept was simple: Use volunteers to cook, wrap, and deliver burritos to the county’s homeless. The burrito aficionado had good reason for picking them over sandwiches or soup: “They’re pretty easy in terms of the number of ingredients that you use. It’s a nice little compact meal that’s pretty filling and can have a high nutritional value.”
Using his law skills, Dunbar looked up what it would take to become a registered 501c-3 nonprofit organization, did the paperwork, and quickly became a wrap star.