Difficult circumstances often call for unique solutions, and in the case of the current COVID-19 pandemic, one proven solution has been collaboration.
In the Bay Area of California, the small nonprofit organization Northstate Relief has partnered with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a number of other organizations to reach more communities with much-needed donations of food this winter.
Other organizations include the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program, the Oakland branch of the NAACP, the Police Action League, the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce and other local government representatives.
Utilizing a USDA grant for the distribution of food from the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, Northstate Relief, the Church and other community partners donated 2,400 boxes of food for families in the Bay Area on Friday, Dec. 11. The deliveries amount to some 76,800 pounds of food that were distributed to underserved communities where families and individuals have been hit particularly hard during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
The effort was part of the fourth round of such collaborations for donations that have taken place throughout this year as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which was announced in April as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Josh Cook, a member of the Church who works as the chief of staff for Senator Brian Dahle — one of the government leaders who helped facilitate the food grant in the area — and also volunteers with Northstate Relief, noted the importance of the various connections and relationships that made the swift delivery of the perishable food boxes possible. The relationships established in the area through the Church and partners like the NAACP helped in facilitating the success of such a large-scale collaboration and ensuring that the food got to those most in need, he said.
“We’ve received a lot of assistance from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Cook said following the donation event. “And the real strength is their people. … They’re always ready, they’re always there, and it’s a real blessing to be able to partner with an organization of such strength everywhere you go, and in every community. So we have the ability to go almost anywhere and find a friend and find volunteers, ready to do service. It’s been a pleasure to work with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and we’re thankful that they brought us to their facility here today on top of Temple Hill.”
Two large trucks filled with 20 pallets of perishable food boxes — with items like eggs, milk and produce — from the Farmers to Families Food Box Program were met by the consortium of community partners Friday in the parking lot of the Oakland California Temple.
With each box weighing some 30 pounds, Cook expressed his excitement to deliver “30 pounds of fruits, vegetables, milk and some meat like chicken” to people’s homes. After picking up the boxes, the community partners made up largely of a network of churches in the area, took the boxes to distribute them to those in need throughout the surrounding communities.
Bobby Miller, director of the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program, which works with people experiencing homelessness in the Bay Area, said that even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for food resources among the populations they serve was high.
“With the advent of COVID, so many people have lost their jobs. Those that are renting are able to hold on to the places they’re renting, but they have no money for food, clothing and things of that nature,” he said. “The lines grow longer, and we’re up to approximately 270 families daily.”
They serve the families by handing out food six days a week, he said, and that’s not even counting the homeless encampments.
“So we’re probably passing out 500 to 800 meals per day to people who have no way to cook or anything like that so they really need it,” he said. “The situation is really bad in this area and all around the Bay Area.”
In addition to helping organize the delivery of the donations through community partners, the Church brought together some 50 volunteers on Friday to help the Police Action League with the distribution of 420 boxes from a park in the inner city in Oakland.
“They didn’t have a van to pick up and deliver the boxes, so we sent a trailer to help them,” said Angela Dwyer, the director of communications for the Oakland California Stake. “The people were really grateful to receive the produce and perishable items that are often hard to get in donations.”
Darren White, a member of the executive board of the Oakland branch of the NAACP, expressed his gratitude for the community collaboration that made the donations possible.
“It protects people during COVID but it’s also the network that we’re talking about,” he said.
“You know, we’re all human, we may have our differences, but we have to come together as one to make sure we all survive this pandemic,” he said. “And collaboration is the key. You know, we don’t have to always agree on the same thing but we, what we have to agree on is that we love and respect each other, and you know love always conquers hate.”
Other community partners in Friday’s donation efforts included the Interfaith Council of Alameda County, Wings of Love Maranatha Ministries, The Miraculous Foundation, the Fred Finch Youth and Family Services.
“This is an example of ‘blessed are they that do,” said Paul Cobb, a longtime NAACP member and owner of the Oakland Post on Friday as boxes were distributed. He thanked the Church for their example in practicing what they preach about serving others.
Pastor Jenee Scott from The Miraculous Foundation added, “We are the ambassadors of Christ, so we are doing what Jesus came to do. … He fed the thousands of hungry people, and that’s what we’re doing.”
A donation of another 2,400 boxes is scheduled to be made in Panorama City in Southern California next Friday, Dec. 18, through which similar collaborations between church, government and community partners will help meet the needs of those most in need during this holiday season.