Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Pen-Chi Liu
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
In the midst of a sudden heatwave in Southern California, May 10th, 2020 offered cloudy skies, the day promising hot and humid temperatures nevertheless. By 6:00 AM, more than 100 Tzu Chi volunteers had already arrived at the Tzu Chi Education Campus in Walnut, California, to prepare for the day’s events: our Mother’s Day grocery giveaway to help relieve food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
People began to arrive and queued up outside the campus after 7:00 AM, patiently awaiting the start of the event. In order to keep the beneficiaries protected and adhere to social distancing guidelines, volunteers set up the distribution as a drive-through.
People automatically formed a line with their cars stretching around the hill at the back of the campus for over two miles over Highway 57.
Seeing so many people from the local community in need of assistance, volunteers prayed with a heavy heart that this distribution would help alleviate the hunger and suffering of these residents, even if temporarily.
Sulin Lao received news of the distribution from her landlord. “As soon as I entered the campus, I felt so emotional with tears in my eyes. What makes these volunteers do this in this heat? I felt so grateful for receiving the food.”
Quingin Leggett drove for an hour from the City of Riverside to receive the groceries. He told us about a friend of his who notified him about the event, and expressed his delight that people from diverse ethnic backgrounds had joined together in true solidarity to aid others. Even though the distribution site was a bit of a distance from his home, he knew he needed the assistance, and so, no matter how far, he had resolved to make the drive over.
The distribution officially started at 8:00 AM, one car after another driving through the campus grounds. At the first station, after volunteers inquired how many households and how many family members there were, they put a sign on the car window. The next stop was a presentation explaining Tzu Chi’s Mother’s Day, Buddha Day, and Tzu Chi Day celebrations. Volunteers bestowed a single carnation to each beneficiary with our English Tzu Chi Journal, masks, and pamphlets, and wished everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. Then, they reached the food distribution site which comprised of six tents. After the driver opened their trunk, volunteers promptly placed 35 lbs of food inside.
The driver and passengers inside the cars wore masks throughout the circuit, and no one had to leave the vehicle. Volunteers at each station made inquiries and carried out the distributions with gratitude, respect, and love in their hearts. As people left the campus, volunteers put their palms together to wish them well. The care with which the volunteers greeted everyone brought forth a delightful warmth and sense of loving-kindness on this unique Mother’s Day, many residents also responding in kind from their vehicles.
This distribution benefited a total of 3,802 individuals from 1,016 families. The event was organized by Tzu Chi USA, and sponsored by Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Wei-Chuan Food Corporation USA, and Food Forward. The food distributed included rice, pasta, vegetables, fruits, and canned food. Madhatter Knits, a non-profit organization focusing on prenatal care also participated by providing a special gift for families with pregnant women.
California State Senator Ling Ling Chang and Councilmembers Eric Ching and Dr. Allen Wu attended the distribution’s opening ceremony as well. Ms. Chang additionally stayed to volunteer to carry food packages to the vehicles. Representatives from California State, Assemblymember Phillip Chen, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, also attended and participated in the distribution.
As the distribution continued on, the sun finally broke through the thick clouds to shine brightly upon the volunteers. Though volunteers worked up a sweat, they felt that they were blessed to have had a mostly cloudy morning for the distribution. They were also grateful for the 1,000+ families who came to spend this special day with Tzu Chi volunteers.
The United States presently has more than 1.43 million confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and more than 20 million people have lost their jobs. For many low-income individuals, their financial challenges and hardships seemed to multiply overnight, leaving them with virtually no way to support themselves and their families. Please support our relief work as we provide community members and frontline workers with the supplies they need. Through the power of great love and unity, we can strive to flatten the curve together.