Written by Mandy Lo
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
The nation has seen profound economic impacts due to the ongoing pandemic, and in September, Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters held a food distribution event for the first time in San Gabriel, a chiefly Chinese community in Southern California. The response from the community was great, and after collaborating with the City of San Gabriel and the affiliated school district, volunteers returned to Gabrielino High School for another distribution on November 7th, benefiting 300 households.
Returning for a Second Distribution
Southern California’s rainy season began early in November. There was a light drizzle in the early morning that soon turned to rain, and volunteers saw the temperature plummet to 15 degrees Celsius. However, volunteers from the National Headquarters had planned to hold a food distribution in San Gabriel City, and did not wish to disappoint the people who were in need of aid. Therefore, they decided to hold the distribution as scheduled despite the rain.
On the morning of the distribution, volunteers gathered on-site, everyone working together with care to organize 300 bags of supplies. Mayor Denise Menchaca, YMCA of West San Gabriel Valley CEO Valarie Gomez, and members of the San Gabriel City Police Department as well as the Alhambra School District, all came to assist in the distribution.
The distribution started at 9 AM, utilizing a drive-through method to help ensure the safety of the community. The waiting vehicles slowly drove into the school parking lot with volunteers guiding the flow of traffic. Volunteers greeted the families with genuine enthusiasm despite the weather. Thanks to the excellent teamwork of all involved, beneficiaries received a box of dry food and a box of fresh food in an orderly manner. The contents included canned food, rice, noodles, beans, apples, potatoes, onions, and more.
The West San Gabriel Valley YMCA is a regional organization that collaborates with Tzu Chi in San Gabriel, CA. After our recent distribution activities, they learned more about Tzu Chi’s charity work, and discovered the missions our footprint of humanitarian relief covers beyond food distribution. They began to assist Tzu Chi volunteers serving the community through referrals of families in urgent need of assistance.
A Family Urgently in Need
After receiving an urgent request for help, Valarie referred Yvette Niz’s family to Tzu Chi. Yvette, who gave birth to her third daughter three months ago, lost her job because of the pandemic. Yvette and her husband couldn’t pay the rent without income and were evicted. The couple and their three daughters could only sleep in their car. Recently, Yvette’s husband found a temporary job and rented a new apartment. However, they had nothing beyond a refrigerator.
When Yvette came to the distribution site with her children, she seemed to be shivering due to the cold. She shared that when they were evicted from their rental home, they rented storage to keep their furniture and daily necessities safe, but couldn’t pay the fees later. The storage company auctioned off all the items in her storage. Although they are now staying at a new place, they need tables, chairs, and beds. She spoke about the difficulties her children face — how hard it is for her three children to sleep and do homework on the cold floor. She’d hoped Tzu Chi and the YMCA could help them.
After understanding Yvette’s needs, two Tzu Chi volunteers from Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters, Flora Yeh and Ping Mee Tam, discussed the case on-site. In addition to providing her with more fruits and vegetables, Tam also returned to Tzu Chi’s San Gabriel Service Center for some winter clothes and a cash card. When James Chen, the individual in charge of Tzu Chi’s San Gabriel Service Center gave six eco-blankets to Yvette, and the volunteers gave her the cash card and explained how to use it, Yvette felt a great weight lifted from her shoulders. “Thank you!” she said with emotion. “Thank you so much!”
“Members from my family are all unemployed,” said Cindy Bradshaw, another resident who came with Valarie’s referral. “This distribution is a great help to us, I really appreciate it.”
Helping The Community Together
Seeing how Tzu Chi volunteers helped Yvette and Cindy who were in urgent need, Valarie was moved from the bottom of her heart. “I have been worried about Yvette and Cindy’s situation for many days. When I saw Tzu Chi’s ability to solve their problems immediately, my worries were finally relieved.” Later, they both sent emails to Valarie and the volunteers to express their gratitude again.
The San Gabriel Police Department not only dispatched police vehicles to take charge of the security work on-site. Captain Fabian Valdez also delivered ten sets of food from Tzu Chi’s distribution to households in need. The police officers drove two police cars to distribute the essentials, knocking on doors to ask struggling community members to come out for the fresh food. The residents were pleasantly surprised when they saw the officers with such a thoughtful gift.
“The police officers in San Gabriel are very caring and enthusiastic to help the residents when there’s difficulties,” said Jumei Lin, a local beneficiary. “All the help is really great and appreciated.”
Happy To Be A Volunteer
Steven Haro, who works at a waste management company, volunteers on his days off. He said that he often volunteers in charity activities in the community. This time, he and a few colleagues helped Tzu Chi with the distribution. Seeing so many people in need, he couldn’t help feeling grateful for everything he had. Thinking about how he has food and a job — especially during the pandemic — that his family is safe and healthy and that they have the energy to help others, he is very thankful, indeed.
A volunteer from the waste management company brought her child to help serve the community. The youngster, Zoe Suzuki, shared that she was encouraged by her mother to join the food distribution to help the neighborhood.
Thinking of seniors in the community with limited mobility, volunteer Kevin Hsu paid a special visit to a family after the distribution. At 80 years old, Mr. Liang is unable to drive and has a family of seven. Due to the impact of the pandemic, his income has been greatly reduced, and he can no longer support his expenses at home. Volunteers took care of the family whenever there was a local food distribution, and delivered supplies to help relieve their financial burden.
Although the pandemic has made it necessary to keep one’s distance to safeguard the health of communities, Tzu Chi’s careful distribution was able to safely bring together the hearts of those who wished to help, so that underserved populations can receive the support they need. During the pandemic, the positive energy delivered alongside the supplies can be extremely important as well, and Tzu Chi volunteers will continue to serve communities with love.