Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
Representing neighboring residents of the community, Ophelia Ryan came to Walnut Park Elementary School in Los Angeles County on February 12th, the first day of the Lunar New Year, to collect 30 sets of food, essential supplies, and toys. These long-awaited supplies would assist several families.
Seeing the familiar Tzu Chi volunteers at the scene, Ophelia graciously greeted them with her best “Gong xi fa cai” and “Amitabha.” Many of her neighbors have faced unemployment due to the pandemic, and some family members tested positive for COVID-19 as well. Tzu Chi has been distributing food in Huntington Park for many years, and Ophelia shared her gratitude for the continuous support.
Unite To Overcome The Challenges
The office of Chair Hilda L. Solis from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors collaborated with Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters, the American Red Cross, and Northgate Market on February 12, 2021, at Walnut Park Elementary School in Los Angeles to distribute essential supplies to 30 community charity organizations to help families in need.
Supervisor Hilda L. Solis shared that due to the pandemic, many families struggle with food insecurity. Although the authorities urge residents over the age of 65 to stay at home to avoid infection, many seniors over the age of 65 in Los Angeles County must still work hard to make ends meet. She felt grateful to Tzu Chi USA, the American Red Cross, and Northgate Market for helping the community provide food, personal hygiene products, toys, and other essential supplies that will help maintain the health and well-being of the community.
A Partner for Good
Jackson Chen, the Chief Executive Officer of Tzu Chi USA, expressed that one way Tzu Chi volunteers uphold the teachings of the venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen is by providing direct assistance and spiritual comfort to those most in need of care and support. Therefore, 630 sets of fruits, vegetables, and dry foods were prepared for the community, the mindful selection of goods helping residents take care of their bodies during the pandemic.
“Tzu Chi has been collaborating with Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and the American Red Cross to serve the community for the long-term,” said Jackson Chen. “We are pleased to be able to collaborate for this distribution on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Just like Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms state, ‘Giving is not exclusive of the rich, but a sincere and pious love.’ Let’s continue this joint effort together.”
Joanne Nowlin, CEO of the American Red Cross’ Los Angeles Region, was delighted to show everyone the bag of essentials provided by the organization, explaining that the included masks and hand sanitizers were provided with the love and care of multiple organizations.
Delivering Love With Tzu Chi’s Mobile Food Pantry
Over 30 community organizations had already lined up outside the school to pick up the supplies. After the opening ceremony, vehicles drove into the parking lot at Walnut Park Elementary School so the supplies could be loaded into the vehicle.
Beginning in 2016, Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters launched its Mobile Food Pantry — a food distribution project in Southern California — providing fresh fruits and vegetables in San Bernardino, La Puente, Wilmington, Huntington Park, Alhambra, and Santa Ana.
Tzu Chi volunteers launched the program in Huntington Park, CA, in June of 2017, and the food distributions continue to this day. Volunteers work alongside local schools to help enable low-income families to acquire fresh fruits and vegetables from Tzu Chi, and empower children through a balanced diet.
In the past three years, Tzu Chi USA’s National Headquarters distributed nearly 20,000 sets of food per year in Southern California, benefiting 98,500 individuals. Last year, however, COVID-19 spread rapidly in the United States. Tzu Chi volunteers wanted to do more to help low-income families facing these new financial hurdles, and added drive-through food distributions in more communities, not only providing food but also essential supplies that were difficult to obtain at the time.
A Community In Need on the South Side of LA
While planning the distribution, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis first contacted Tzu Chi, who she knew had provided care for low-income communities in Southern California on several occasions. Tzu Chi USA, therefore, provided 630 sets of food, the American Red Cross donated hygiene kits, and toys for the children were donated by Northgate Market.
Since the beginning of winter in Los Angeles County, the number of COVID-19 cases has risen each day, and the southeastern area of Los Angeles has seen a rapid spread of the virus. This includes the surrounding communities of Huntington Park and Walnut Park, where many families have faced unemployment.
Despite the challenges brought forth by the pandemic, Tzu Chi volunteers always carry the needs of the community firmly within their hearts, so when the situation does not permit large-scale activities, volunteers reach out to a network of caring community partners to send their boundless love and support to the community.