Answering Several Needs With Care in San Bernardino County

National Headquarters  |  September 29, 2022
Volunteers register those arriving for the distribution of food and backpacks at Del Vallejo Leadership and STEAM Academy in California. Photo/Shengping Liu

Written by Cishi Zhang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

The Tzu Chi USA Headquarters Region held a fruits and vegetables distribution alongside a school backpack donation event on August 22, 2022, at Del Vallejo Leadership and STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) Academy in San Bernardino County, in the Inland Empire metropolitan area adjacent to coastal Southern California.

San Bernardino is one of the poorest counties in California. The school’s social workers wrote to Tzu Chi asking if they could do a food distribution in the area. The Tzu Chi USA Headquarters Region agreed to distribute fruits and vegetables monthly to help students from disadvantaged families and school staff.

Volunteers arrange the piles of supplies transported to the distribution site neatly in preparation for the event. Photo/Shengping Liu

Early in the morning on the distribution day, volunteers arrived one after another. Veteran and new volunteers joined forces to set up two distribution points. A long line of cars was already waiting before 8 AM. Once the event went forward, the food pantry delivered 162 portions of fruits and vegetables, as well as masks, COVID test kits, and other pandemic safety supplies.

Some volunteers help load the supplies received into the trunks of care recipients’ cars, while others help direct traffic to ensure a smooth flow of vehicles. Photos/Shengping Liu

New School Backpacks, New Shoes, New Beginnings

This monthly food distribution coincided with the back-to-school day for various schools. Usually, students will get new backpacks, stationery, clothing, shoes, and so on at this time of year if their family’s financial situation allows. Unfortunately, students from disadvantaged families may not receive such gifts, despite their needs. 

Tzu Chi’s heart goes out to these underprivileged students. In addition to providing food and pandemic safety supplies, volunteers specially prepared new school backpacks and stationery for students, an unexpected gift that made them feel loved.

Volunteers hand the backpack and shoes to students with respect and care. Photo/ Shengping Liu

After learning that Tzu Chi was to donate school backpacks on Del Vallejo Leadership and STEAM Academy’s back-to-school day, the Academy’s social workers provided a list of 25 students from 21 families that needed the donation the most, including those in foster homes. In addition to the backpacks and stationery, the Inland Chinese Association partnered with Tzu Chi to donate two pairs of new sneakers to each student.

Volunteers prepare colorful school backpacks and sneakers donated by the Inland Chinese Association for distribution to students. Photos/Shengping Liu

The Inland Chinese Association has been active in the area for over 30 years, and the partnership with Tzu Chi has been promoted by Gary Liaw and Tzu Chi volunteer Xinghua Zhuang Hua for a long time. The sneakers provided to the boys and girls were beautiful, practical, and stylish, and the children held the brand new shoe boxes with excitement in their eyes as they left.

An Appreciated Presence

Edward McMillion II, Vice Principal of Del Vallejo Leadership and STEAM Academy, worked with Tzu Chi at his former school, and was happy to reconnect with the Foundation.

I’m familiar with the [Buddhist] Tzu Chi Foundation because I used to work at Indian Springs High School, and I know you have a different program there. I’m thrilled to see that you came to the Del Vallejo Academy to organize this school backpack donation. The students benefit a lot from this; not only can they carry their books and personal belongings to and from school in the backpacks, but they can also deeply appreciate the spirit of Tzu Chi’s charity and the support of the community.

Vice Principal Edward McMillion II addresses students at the distribution. Photo/Shengping Liu

The Tzu Chi volunteers serving during the distribution were also grateful to be there and have the opportunity to help the community.

We believe that love can heal many pains and love can help people through difficult times. All Tzu Chi volunteers work hard to give back to the community. We are grateful to the school principal for providing the space to help us to carry out these two activities today.

It was the first time that volunteer Yunhao Zhang took part in a distribution. “I’m very happy to come to the school to help distribute the fruits and vegetables, and I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’d like to continue to participate this year,” he shared. Jiting Zhang was also a newcomer, saying, “Today is my first time participating in a distribution, and although it’s a bit demanding physically, I feel very happy. I’m grateful to Tzu Chi for giving me this chance.”

Volunteer Feifen Zhang joined Tzu Chi because her son is a Tzu Chi Youth Group Member, and she met many volunteers when she came to do community service with them. What she likes the most about Tzu Chi’s activities are the food distributions and free clinics. She also mobilizes people to join the volunteers, saying, “This community just needs our help, they’re in great need of food, so if anyone has free time, you can join together to help people who need it.”

Del Vallejo Academy students and Tzu Chi volunteers pose for a group photo in anticipation of the start of the new school year. Photo/Tzu Chi USA Headquarters

Tzu Chi volunteers strive to support underprivileged students and their families in many ways, yet this is just one of Tzu Chi’s missions. Your generosity and love empower them all!

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