|Letter from the President/CEO|
...At the Heart of Gratitude and Personal Connections
Before COVID hit, our staff and Food For Kids volunteers rarely got a chance to personally interact with the children and families we help, as the schools made the connections to the families and gave out the food we delivered each week. However, when the pandemic hit and schools closed, our partners began making different arrangements. Suddenly our weekly drop-offs brought us face-to-face (masked, of course!) with families as they patiently waited in line to personally pick up the bags of food.
At first, the families were grateful, but reserved. Then, as the weeks progressed, everything became more familiar and families began talking, honking, waving and shouting another "thank you!" as they left... we even prepared a special surprise for one little girl's birthday! (pictured, left) Now that we're also helping families through a new partnership with Pediatric Therapy Network (more on that below!), the gratitude I've personally seen in the eyes of both the parents and children has really touched me and deeply motivated me to keep looking for ways to fund this program, and fight to keep it open through these tough times.
Across the Southland, our community is also having similar experiences. Local mom and K-EARTH 101 Radio Host Lara Scott helped LAUSD distribute food to families and shared her thoughts on social media:
"When schools switched to distance learning back in the Spring, a big topic among my mom friends was, 'What about the kids who receive meals at school?' For some children, school is the ONLY place they eat... I got to see what it truly means when you donate. I saw so many precious children, many looking at me with serious, big eyes through the window from their car seat... You can hear statistics and stories but seeing something in person, right in front of you, makes it real, and changes you."
Lara beautifully describes how I also felt when I saw the expression of the children in their car seats, and imagined what they must be feeling and dealing with right now.
A few weeks ago, the coordinator at one of our partner schools showered us with notes of gratitude from some of the families we've been helping. While you may not be able to see the children we serve, these thank you notes really belong to you, and I hope it will help you feel the outpouring of gratitude from these families. Without your support, we would not be starting our sixth month of feeding these grateful families, nor would we be surpassing 1,800 bags delivered since the schools closed.
Looking ahead to the next six months, we plan to keep fighting to provide much-needed food and school supplies through Food For Kids and Operation Teddy Bear, as well as supporting the social and emotional wellness of local youth and families through our new programs and updates, especially since the increased need for all these services has been overwhelming!
But we can't keep doing this work without you. Our latest budget - approved just last Thursday - was devastating. Your kindness through financial and food donations is ESSENTIAL to keep our programs going, so I am personally urging you to give or continue giving. Click here to make a donation to support these programs; click here to learn more about the food donations we need and how to make a drop-off appointment! The shelves are so low, our budget has been drastically cut, and we need your help to meet the demands this Fall.
Sometimes, when the world feels chaotic and beyond our control, it helps to start where we can... right here, right now, with one child in one car seat. We feel deeply grateful that at the end of the day, that child will eat dinner because of all of us. While I can't show you the child's face, I hope you can "see" the image I'm holding in my heart that's driving us forward.
|New Downtown Torrance Partnerships|
...At the Heart of Supporting Our Community Together
We are excited to announce new program partnerships to help local youth and families!
We recently began working with our friends and Downtown Torrance neighbors at Pediatric Therapy Network (PTN) to help feed families in their programs through Food For Kids. PTN has identified the families who need extra support, and each week, these families visit a special drive-thru to pick up weekend meals with the help of PTN's Charlene Nishimura and her husband Chris!
"We are so thankful to the Volunteer Center for providing our families with much needed food donations through their Food For Kids Program," PTN's CEO, Terri Nishimura, shared. "The Volunteer Center is working with our Early Head Start and our Early Intervention Program, Leaps and Bounds. These programs serve our youngest clients - newborns, babies and toddlers. This is especially helpful during these challenging times and also because many older children are getting meals from their schools but the families with babies and toddlers may not be. Thanks to the Volunteer Center, 30 families a week do not have to worry about missing a meal. We are very thankful to the support and generosity of our neighbor and friends at the Volunteer Center."
Another Downtown Torrance neighbor, Sunrider International, recently offered us boxes of their Kandesn® Hand Cleansing Gel to help the youth and families we serve. We are so grateful for their generosity - to us and the other the local nonprofits they supported with this kind act - as well as the work they do to keep communities healthy and safe!
|Helping Families Learn Together|
...At the Heart of Continuing Valued Partnerships
Our friends at the Molina Foundation have played a huge role in helping us promote literacy through Operation Teddy Bear for the past 15 years, and now we can add support for Food For Kids to this partnership! They've provided National Geographic Explorer Magazines for BOTH of our programs as part of their Book Buddies 2020 program, "Families Learning Together," in addition our annual book grant for Operation Teddy Bear!
This year's Book Buddies efforts are designed to help the families we serve connect through reading and learning during the summer and back-to-school season as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. They have provided more than 1.5 million books and magazines nationwide to community partners like us!
The photos above show last year's Operation Teddy Bear school visits, including the National Geographic Explorer Magazines we obtained through the magazine's partnership with First Book... we simply paid for shipping. This year, thanks to a generous grant provided to the Molina Foundation, the shipping fees for everything in our book/magazine grant have been covered - allowing us to make a greater impact together - and we are so grateful!
|Welcoming New Board Members|
...At the Heart of Dedicated Leadership
We are thrilled to announce that seven community members joined our Board of Directors at the beginning of our new fiscal year in July! Each one brings both a wealth of expertise and a strong background of community support:
- Eliana Ayala, Kinecta Federal Credit Union
- Heather Black Goyan, Retired Real Estate Professional
- Paula Cox-Marshall, Retired TV and Radio Account Executive
- Betty C. Lieu, Esq., Torrance Unified School District
- Renee Moilanen, Environmental Consultant
- Sandy Mukai-Kim, Human Resources Professional
Click here for a list of all our dedicated and compassionate board members. We are so grateful to our board for supporting everything we do to increase empathy and resilience in local youth and families!
- Diane Strickfaden, City of Redondo Beach
|Families Feeding Families|
...At the Heart of Filling Bags Weekly
We are grateful to the members of our community who are essential in helping us feed local families-in-need with donations to our Food For Kids program!
- Risa Auger of Torrance donated a much-needed case of canned vegetables!
- Girl Troop 70755 of Manhattan Beach donated 16 pounds of food along with a financial contribution of $250. We were also thrilled to learn that since the troop's leader works for Hulu, the $250 donation was matched dollar-for-dollar by the LA-based media company!
- Cara Greene, Michele Inaba, and Ryan and Mason Kramer - all members of H.O.P.E. (Helping our Planet Everyday) - arranged appointments to drop off a total of 175 pounds of food they collected!
- Our friends at Journey of Faith contributed nearly 400 pounds of food and some helping hands in the pantry - in a socially-distant manner!
- Staff Member Liz Reinhardt and her family donated 60 pounds of food.
- In their continuing effort to keep our pantry stocked, the wonderful Sandpipers members contributed another 300 pounds of food in the last month, including lots of canned veggies!
- The student members of South Bay Food Initiative returned to donate another 342 pounds of food!
We are currently accepting much-needed food donations by appointment only to ensure everyone's safety. Click here to learn about our temporary donation procedures, download our non-perishable food Shopping List, find a link to our Amazon Wish List to have donations shipped directly to us, and more!
- Quote of the Month -
"A child's mental health is just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support. No one would feel embarrassed about seeking help for a child if they broke their arm - and we really should be equally ready to support a child coping with emotional difficulties."
- The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, in a 2015
PSA in honor of the UK's first Children's Mental Health Week
A portion of this quote was tweeted by @ThePaintedBrain on 8/10/20
|Featured Kindness Opportunity
Keep forgetting to complete the census OR remember at inopportune times? Here's an important kind act to do this weekend - complete the 2020 Census and provide important details to help determine how much funding goes to support our schools, communities and the youth we serve!
You can also find materials designed for teachers, parents and caregivers to learn together with children and youth, highlighting the importance of making sure everyone is counted as part of the Stats In Schools (SIS) resources. Click here to check out the activities for Pre-K, K-12 and ELL/Adult ESL learners, as well as a variety of subjects in both English and Spanish. Click here for storybooks, songs and interactive activities about counting and learning about the community, including a downloadable Everyone Counts coloring book, Dr. Seuss-themed coloring pages, diversity-themed activities and more!
THANK YOU TO OUR MAJOR SPONSORS:
The Volunteer Center South Bay-Harbor-Long Beach
|Recognizing the value of empathy and service to others, the Volunteer Center has been "at the heart of helping" for more than 50 years. The heart of our mission lies in knowing the most urgent, local needs. We learn these needs by regularly listening to the members of our community. When we discover a critical need is going unmet, we lead the response by assembling a team of caring, talented volunteers to create signature programs, such as Operation Teddy Bear and Food For Kids, offering members of our community the opportunity to contribute to the solution. Click here to learn more about Engaging Hearts and Minds - our new, all-encompassing program designed to compassionately support community members, so everyone can look up, re-connect, empathize with each other, build resilience, express emotions and practice self-care.