Volunteers Show their Love for their Community

The COVID-19 Pandemic has unveiled true devastation that is intertwined with being on the wrong side of the poverty line. Those who were surviving with little to no means, felt the meteoric impact that crushed their daily routine and snuffed out the fragile lifeline they may have had to keep afloat. This global crisis has deepened the trench that lies between the haves and have nots, to the point where some don’t see a way they will eat or feed their family in the following weeks. Farm Box Grab and Go Food Program distributed more than 3,000 boxes to residents in Compton. This was an eight-week partnership between First Five L.A., Best Start, Community Health Councils (CHC), and SEE-LA (Sustainable Economic Enterprise.) The collaboration has been online since April 29, distributing food and working as a crutch for the severely affected communities.

The SEE-LA has provided anywhere from 1,400 to 1,700 farm boxes per week across the Best Start Region. Farm boxes were found across Broadway, Manchester, Compton, Watts, Willowbrook, and West Athens. Each box contained a week’s worth of fresh and locally grown produce, families were lined up, bumper to bumper on Friday to receive their portion of assistance and hope for the week.

Farm Boxes Grab and Go Inventory Photo By Betti Halsell

Multiple Organizations teamed up to make this successful, like the Crystal Stairs’ programs and services. They focus on the quality of life for thousands of families in Los Angeles every day, serving the communities of South Los Angeles, Compton, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Long Beach, Lynwood and surrounding areas. Additionally, the partnership included SHIELDS for Families, the largest family-centered service provider in South Los Angeles. The Best Start and First Five LA Program look to support children prenatal to 5 years old in preparation for their educational journey. Along with the Community Health Council, the mentioned teams and organizations embodied unity. They gathered all their resources and met at the SHIELDS for Families College Bridge Academy on June 19.

30th District California State Senator Holly Mitchell joined them on Friday to show her personal gratitude of the groundwork these organizations have done as well as the volunteers. “…These are long-term community institutions, and community institutions know what to do when the community has needs. This isn’t hard, these are all non-profits who collaborate, when I was at Crystal Stairs we collaborated with SHIELDS and Community Health Council frequently. This is what we do, this is why people are showing up because the community also understands that these are great organizations that have their back, there’s a shared mutual trust.”

30th District California State Senator Holly Mitchell and The Community Health Council Chief Executive Officer Veronica Flores. Photo By Betti Halsell

The Community Health Council Chief Executive Officer Veronica Flores was also helping out on Friday and she stated, “Our reaction when COVID happened, we knew because we been working with these communities…We knew one of the major issues was food access, but COVID just made it uglier than ever. We knew also that there were a lot of organizations that were in this space, working around food access, but what we needed to do is bring in the resources and there were a couple things that we had to look at. One was, how do we bring in the community in a safe manner. Secondly, how do we get the dollars that it will take to buy food for these many weeks. So we were able to secure the dollars in support with First Five L.A. to really fund four communities in Compton and three others in South L.A., so we been supplying boxes of food every week for eight weeks,” Executive Officer Flores announced that the collaboration is extending another two weeks.

Leadership from Best Start Grace Weltman shared many of the people in these communities are not doing well, and some people from the same area, facing the same drought in access and support came to volunteer week after week. Weltman explained the commitment she sees within the efforts made on Friday, filled her with devotion and responsibility to be a strong support system. There are so many that are not doing well, but what was reflected on June 19, was neighbors looking out for one another. Many families confided in Weltman, they didn’t know how they were going to get groceries in the coming weeks if it weren’t for these food drives.  Weltman stated, “Its Communities of Color, that even when we recover, they are going to be the last one to recover, and who is going to be there? The fact that we know we have a community to rely on and organizations that are stepping in to provide… its inspiring to me to think more about what is our responsibility in the long-term, because when this is done, what is going to be there?”

Volunteers Julius and Nicholas Franklin. Photo by Betti Halsell

Cars were lined up and volunteers would load their trunks as they pulled up to the SHIELDS for Families College Bridge Academy driveway. People who were assisting came from diverse backgrounds, age groups, and all seem to be in good spirit. The volunteers were organized, and one could feel the comradery as they assisted each other with loading each car. All of them were working towards a common goal and knew how their role was significant in answering the call for help from their neighbor. Senator Mitchell shared a word with everyone there, “I just wanted to come out here and spend a little time with you, to participate and let the community know that we all have their backs, we are going to get through this together…we are going to come out stronger. We are going to learn about how this impacted us differently, that racism and classism is a preexisting condition. That’s why COVID hit us harder than other communities, So I thank you for your service.”

There were some young volunteers spotted on Friday, Julius and Nicholas Franklin came and supported their community. In response to why they volunteer Julius stated, “ I Volunteer because if I don’t volunteer then I don’t think anybody will, so I set an example and I have a younger brother and siblings so if I volunteer it gets my younger siblings to volunteer, and if my younger siblings volunteer then the whole community can volunteer for each other and we will grow.”