Tzu Chi Takes Part in First San Dimas Cares Food Distribution for Seniors

National Headquarters  |  April 30, 2020
Tzu Chi volunteer Huiping Wang (left) gives a food bag to Mary Pinochet (middle) at a San Dimas Cares project distribution site. Photo / Jennifer Chien

Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

Mary Pinochet, a senior citizen who has lived in San Dimas for more than 30 years, received a food bag from Tzu Chi USA on April 16. Tzu Chi volunteer Huiping Wang explained what the food bag contained and also gave Mary several medical masks.

As Mary thanked Tzu Chi volunteers for this aid, she shared that she and her husband immigrated to the U.S. from Chile, and have lived in San Dimas since. She was happy to say that their three children had received a good education and became working professionals.

However, Mary also shared that a few years ago, her husband had suffered a stroke, which affected their financial wellbeing. Plus, due to the pandemic, their children’s jobs were affected too. She truly needed help and was so grateful that Tzu Chi USA was giving her this food.

Volunteer Huiping Wang (left) explains the contents of the food bag that Mary (right) just received from Tzu Chi USA. Photo / Jennifer Chien

A Collaboration of Neighborly Love

On April 10, Tzu Chi USA Chief Executive Officer, Jackson Chen, and Executive Vice President Dr. Han Huang visited the City of San Dimas and learned that the city’s senior citizens needed food assistance. In response, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department was rolling out San Dimas Cares, a new community aid project. Tzu Chi USA’s representatives immediately expressed the foundation’s willingness to collaborate in this initiative.

Subsequently, the City of San Dimas staff contacted residents with seniors in their household and scheduled the first San Dimas Cares food distribution for April 16. Tzu Chi USA then prepared a total of 55 food bags for the event, which would be held at the San Dimas Recreation Center.

On the morning of April 16, some senior citizens drove directly to the San Dimas Recreation Center to pick up a food bag. In the afternoon, Tzu Chi volunteers accompanied the City of San Dimas staff to deliver food bags to the homes of seniors who couldn’t make it to the distribution due to health issues.

Han Huang explained that this event marked the first time Tzu Chi USA has collaborated with the City of San Dimas. Although San Dimas households are relatively wealthy, the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily affected many residents; therefore, timely assistance was critical. Han also expressed his hope that this would be the start of a long-term relationship with the City of San Dimas, leading to future collaborations on social welfare and family welfare projects.

Tzu Chi USA Executive Vice President Dr. Han Huang (left), City of San Dimas Recreation Supervisor Joseph Jones (center) and Recreation Manager Timothy Pagano (right) confer during the San Dimas Cares food distribution. Photo / Jennifer Chien

Today, we’re here with Tzu Chi USA, essentially assisting our San Dimas Cares project roster members who have identified that they need essential services as a result of the COVID-19 safer-at-home directives by the state and the federal government. And we’re just here to try to collaborate with all of our community stakeholders to ensure that we’re able to assist our residents through this trying time.

Keeping Senior CItizens Safe

Joseph Jones III, although most people know him as Jay, is the Recreation Supervisor for the City of San Dimas and the head of the Parks and Recreation Department’s San Dimas Cares project. He was delighted that Tzu Chi USA was providing food bags at the San Dimas Cares project’s inaugural food distribution event.

Jay was also pleased with how the food was given out, with Tzu Chi volunteers and the City of San Dimas staff placing the bags prepared by Tzu Chi USA directly into the trunks of cars, allowing for safe social distancing during the process to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Tzu Chi USA collaborates with the City of San Dimas in the distribution of food bags for seniors in the community, with volunteers also assisting on-site during the event. Photo / Michael Tseng
As seniors arrive to pick up food supplies, Tzu Chi volunteers or City of San Dimas staff place the bags in their trunk, allowing for a safe social distance during the process. Photo / Jennifer Chien

LaToyia Ward, City of San Dimas Recreation Coordinator, who assisted Tzu Chi volunteers during the distribution, explained that residents who need assistance can call the city’s Parks and Recreation Department directly. Staff will assess their needs and provide the necessary support. She also said that the city welcomes donations from the community to help maintain such ongoing aid.

In addition to assisting in the morning food distribution at the San Dimas Recreation Center, Tzu Chi volunteers also accompanied the city’s staff to deliver food bags to the homes of 30 senior citizens that afternoon. By allowing these seniors, some of whom have health issues, to get fresh food without going out, reduces their risk of being infected with the novel coronavirus.

A Tzu Chi volunteer helps the City of San Dimas staff with the delivery of food bags directly to housebound seniors unable to go out and obtain essentials. Photo / Michael Tseng

Michael Tseng, a Tzu Chi volunteer who helped pack the food bags for distribution, was glad to help seniors at his critical time of the pandemic, knowing that it’s challenging and unsafe for the elderly to go shopping and stand in the long lines outside supermarkets.

Tzu Chi USA’s collaboration with the City of San Dimas in distributing food supplies for the elderly was a timely expression of care and concern for their health and safety. Each food bag provided by Tzu Chi contained fresh vegetables, canned foods, Jing Si food products, and baked goods donated by the 85°C Bakery Café, all combined, yielding sufficient food for a week.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed daily life for most people in the United States, and detrimentally impacted the income of countless families. We need to show neighborly love right now, perhaps more than ever, and come to the aid of those most vulnerable in our communities. It is also a time to cherish the heroic efforts of our first-responders and healthcare workers, and do our utmost to protect those on the frontlines of combat against COVID-19.

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