Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska
Volunteers from Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters Region have been participating in the San Dimas Cares Project, put together by the City of San Dimas, to help support senior citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic and its stay-at-home measures. The project aims to deliver essentials directly to their homes to minimize the risks associated with being out, thus ensuring their health and safety.
Every Thursday morning, Tzu Chi volunteers will meet in front of San Dimas City Hall to pick up a delivery assignment route for the groceries they have prepared and already loaded in their vehicles. The volunteers will then deliver the fresh fruit and vegetables to senior residents following a list of households that had been contacted by the San Dimas Parks and Recreation Department in advance.
Since the first distribution on April 16, up until June 11, volunteers have completed nine food delivery services and helped with grocery deliveries to more than 50 households at times per week. To ensure that every senior’s household can get a balanced meal, Tzu Chi USA volunteers prepare a box containing dried goods provided by the Los Angeles Food Bank and a box of fresh vegetables and fruit.
Each box of food weighs up to twenty pounds, and some of the seniors live on the upper floors of residential buildings. Seeing Tzu Chi volunteers carry the boxes up the stairs on a hot day truly touches the hearts of the elderly care recipients, and leaves an impression within the community.
Each food delivery offers the opportunity to create a warm connection and share a moment of companionship, which is so important as some seniors may be feeling lonely due to the stay-at-home lifestyle imposed in response to the pandemic.
Tzu Chi volunteer Helen Cheng fondly remembers meeting Mrs. Lee, a Taiwanese grandmother, when she delivered food to her on June 4. Grandma Lee had immigrated to the United States more than 30 years ago and was delighted when the volunteers arrived, so happy to converse with them in Taiwanese.
Mrs. Lee even invited the volunteers into her home for some tea. Helen expressed her gratitude for the invitation but kindly refused the offer due to social distancing directives and the food delivery mission for that day still to complete. Before they left, Mrs. Lee smiled and asked the volunteers playfully to guess how old she was: As it turns out, Grandma Lee is 91 years old.
Farther along their delivery route, the volunteers were astonished when a Hispanic lady greeted them in Chinese. She then shared that her grandfather was Chinese, and she even spoke Cantonese to the volunteers.
Every delivery brought surprises to the participating volunteers. Some met seniors who live alone, while others encountered elderly residents who had medical equipment attached to their bodies. Seeing the diverse needs of the people they met that day, the volunteers were extremely grateful for the chance to offer support, especially to those with limited mobility.
One of the seniors asked the volunteers to bring back a $10 donation for the City of San Dimas, hoping to pay the help forward in the community. This thoughtfulness genuinely echoed Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s wisdom, as expressed in this Jing Si Aphorism:
On June 11, eight volunteers took part in the distribution, and four of them had joined the grocery delivery team for the first time. Among the new participants was volunteer Chengwen Ku’s youngest son, Matthew. At the end of the busy day, having become more aware of his community’s needs due to this volunteer experience, he expressed with emotion: “Most seniors do need people to deliver food for them.”
Answering the Community’s Needs
San Dimas has been home to Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters for nearly two decades, and many volunteers have frequently visited the campus to participate in various activities. And yet, some had not had the chance to be directly involved in a community project. This weekly food delivery initiative of the San Dimas Cares Project, emerging due to the pandemic, had created this opportunity for community assistance.
For volunteer Jenny Chang and her husband, who participated in the food deliveries on June 11, it was a rewarding experience that allowed them to personally answer the community’s needs and get to know the people and area better. Jenny felt quite emotional about it once the day’s work was done, “Since Tzu Chi USA moved to San Dimas, this was my [first close] look at the community surroundings, and it was great to drive all around town.”
The COVID-19 pandemic poses an unprecedented economic and social crisis nationwide. Although we must maintain a safe physical distance between us, that doesn’t mean our hearts should feel distanced or apart. Tzu Chi’s ongoing mid- to long-term aid efforts are a means to support our communities with love and care. Your participation will allow more vulnerable populations who have been particularly affected by the pandemic to receive support.