|Letter from the President/CEO
This is such a uniquely challenging time for all of us, and we are all so hyper-focused on our own daily struggles. That's why it's so amazing to see so many people set aside those struggles and show that they want to make a difference for others.
...At the Heart of Coming Together as a Community
- Although many have been stocking their own cupboards, we still have people making appointments to drop off food donations to help us serve those that are struggling to feed their families.
- At the same time, many are making donations to help us with Food For Kids and as an organization, or finding other ways to help feed families in the community. We've even heard about some who are lucky enough to be able to put part of their stimulus checks or stipends to work-from-home back into the community by making donations to nonprofits like ours.
- And there are those using this extra time without long commutes to slow down, take a breath and even literally stop to smell the roses as they walk through their neighborhoods, plant gardens, bake bread or make masks for others.
You can read more about this below. I also continue to see things online that inspire me. One post in particular said it so well - it may seem like we are all in the same boat, but we aren't:
"We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.
For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial and family crisis.
For some that live alone, they're facing endless loneliness. While for others, it is peace, rest and time with their mother, father, sons and daughters.
Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter, while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend."
So as I sit through webinar-after-webinar on this crisis and hear about its economic impact on the nonprofit industry, I am feeling so many things. The statistics forecasting how many worthwhile nonprofits and small businesses won't survive this are staggering, and I am humbled by how many of our peers are facing immediate closures. I am also incredibly grateful that our team has reacted quickly, and found ways to safely keep Food For Kids open to deliver desperately-needed meals to hungry families every Friday. Our board and staff are also working hard to figure out how to manage our expenses and processes, and looking for alternatives to the way we operate.
I can't express how much it means that we were able to share our needs with you, and that many of you have been in a place where you have been able to answer our plea for help. Your donations are always needed and appreciated, but especially right now, these gifts are more vital than ever. Every single donation, no matter the amount, is going straight to keeping our doors open and filling us with relief that we will be able to continue helping the families hit hardest by this pandemic. An extra special thank you to those who have sent checks or donated online and covered the fees, giving us one less thing to worry about.
If you find yourself with anything extra to donate, we will put it to good use, and we will keep sharing the impact you are making. If you aren't able to make a donation right now, please consider sharing this email or one of our social media posts with your networks - every little bit helps, whether it's financial, in-kind or social!
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for joining us "at the heart of helping!" We literally could not do this without you.
p.s. Organizations, including the Gates Foundation and PayPal, have heard the call for help, and they're stepping up to support nonprofits around the world with a new global day of giving and unity: #GivingTuesdayNow. Everyone is encouraged to come together on May 5 as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19 - in addition to the regularly scheduled #GivingTuesday during the Holiday Season.
|National Volunteer Week
...At the Heart of Celebrating Volunteers
It's National Volunteer Week, which is always a wonderful time to publicly thank and celebrate our volunteers! We are extremely grateful to the members of our Board of Directors and Affinity Group, as well as our weekly Food For Kids volunteers, and those who help us with various aspects of Operation Teddy Bear for the time they dedicate to joining us "at the heart of helping."
Did you know that this week is also Every Kid Healthy Week? What a better time to take a moment and thank our Food For Kids volunteers for everything they do throughout the year to help us serve local children and families in need?! From sorting food donations, checking expiration dates and packing more than 100 bags each week to loading their cars and delivering the bags of food to our partner schools - always with smiles on their faces... we couldn't imagine the program without them!
All of our volunteers are an important part of our Volunteer Center family, so whether they're staying safely in their homes right now or are wearing masks and practicing social distancing to help us continue to serve the community, we're sending a special thank you to them for all that they do!
|Additional Resources to Help Families
...At the Heart of Curated Resources for Connection and Wellness
We've created a page on our website with the many resources featured in last month's email newsletter, and we've continued to update the page with additional resources to help you during this uncertain time. Here are just a few of the new additions:
This COVID-19 Time Capsule by LONG Creations is a great way to help you and your children reflect on what you did, how you felt and ways you connected with others during this unique time in history.
The Healthy Habits Children's Activity Book from Give An Hour was created for this unprecedented time, inspired by the Healthy Habits of Emotional Well-being.
L.A. Parent's April 2020 digital issue - the Safer-at-Home Survival Guide - is chock-full of resources to help families, including tips on staying active and battling cabin fever, breathing techniques to steady you in unsteady times, learn-at-home resources and work-from-home tips, self-care tips for a "date night" at home, details about virtual online experiences, positive stories from the community and more!
This also seems like an opportune time to demonstrate the exercise we teach first graders during Operation Teddy Bear, since we're practicing social distancing and some of us can't hug our loved ones... please DO try this at home! It's a wonderful coping tool you can use any time you need it:
"When you feel nervous or afraid, you can grab your teddy bear (or another stuffed toy), take a deep breath and hug the bear really tight. Let's practice! Ready? Everyone inhale... hug your bears... and exhale!"
|Connections, Care and Kindness in Uncertain Times
...At the Heart of Sharing Our Experiences
While the many resources out there can be helpful, sometimes it's nice to hear how others are managing. We asked a few of our volunteers to tell us what they are specifically doing and how they are focusing on their mental health, staying connected with others and making a difference in the community in the hopes that it helps and/or inspires you. Here is what they shared!
Kevin Morrow, Volunteer Center Board Member:
"My wife and I were feeling ambitious, and apparently hungry, so we built three big raised gardening beds in the backyard. We've planted 21 different veggies, 7 herbs, 3 fruit trees and a bunch of wildflowers to bring in the bees, which has been therapeutic and gives us a sense of accomplishment. Like everyone else, my wife has also been baking bread, and it's fantastic. I finally have time to finish the Wall Street Journal crossword puzzle, which has kept me mentally fit... in-between first and second breakfast. We binged-watched the entire "McMillions" series in one day, and then there are the virtual happy hours, which keep us social and connected to our friends!"
Roseanney Liu, Volunteer Center Board Member:
"Due to home/crisis-schooling, the family and I have been taking more walks in the neighborhood with our French bullpup, Pearl. In doing so, we get more exercise and meet more people and their dogs in the area, even with a 6 foot distance. Being able to connect with strangers in person and exercising more has helped both our physical and mental health. We have also connected with friends and family via more texting and Face-timing. It's also been heartwarming to see neighbors offering help on Nextdoor, a neighborhood app, to the elderly, the disabled, and the vulnerable in the area, to help them shop for essential goods. Although COVID-19 is forcing quarantine and social distancing, in a way, it has also brought people together to be more helpful and mindful as to what's really important in life."
Jason Calizar, Food For Kids Volunteer:
"I am thankful that the members of my immediate family are all home, safe and healthy. That includes my 13-year-old, who is of course home from school, so that is a daily adventure. While we miss our weekly visits to the library, we are now reading the last stack we borrowed for the second time. I go on runs through the city every day, which has really helped me mentally as well as physically. I also look forward to my weekly shifts for the Food for Kids program to help deliver bags of food to families in need; many times, that's the only time I take the car out of the garage!"
Kimmy Shields, Food For Kids Volunteer:
"I've been enjoying long, daily walks at sunset, and I do my best to smile at every neighbor I pass by to elicit some positivity and make connections. I try to meditate and exercise every day, so I can release any built-up energy or tension when I'm feeling especially uncertain about the future. I also try to do something creative every day, whether that's reading, cooking, drawing, whatever will keep my brain stimulated. All of that - and volunteering to help with the Food For Kids program - adds up and makes a huge difference!"
|ndness in the Community
...At the Heart of Spreading Joy and Compassion
We always love stories about random acts of kindness, and we recently heard about an anonymous community member who wanted to help a Torrance family in need by purchasing groceries for them. Our friends at the Old Torrance Neighborhood Association (OTNA) stepped up and found a family who could use the help. Even better, the groceries were purchased from Local Kitchen, a restaurant in Downtown Torrance that is also currently selling produce and other meal components. It was such a wonderfully kind act that benefited multiple members of the community and has inspired others to do the same!
We are overjoyed to hear that so many of our friends and neighbors in Old Torrance and beyond are spreading kindness and joy to others. Families in our community have benefitted from this and so have we... members of OTNA dropped off food donations for our pantry and "brownie points" from Torrance Bakery (pictured above) to thank us for continuing to help the community. We also received a generous donation of 24 handmade masks from our friends at the Torrance Woman's Club for our staff and volunteers to wear!
If you're looking for ways to reach out to your neighbors, whatever size gesture you wish to make, there are resources to help you. In addition to the We Love Long Beach cards featured in our last email newsletter, the City of Long Beach has created similar cards you can use to let neighbors know you're there to help, while Beach Cities Health District has created Kindness Cards and shared Errand Assistance Guidelines and Steps to help everyone stay safe.
|Keeping Our Pantry Shelves Stocked
...At the Heart of Continuing to Feed Local Families
We are grateful to the members of our community who have helped us keep our pantry shelves stocked by making appointments to donate food to our Food For Kids program!
- Sophie Baghdoyan of Torrance was encouraged by a friend from college to donate to a local food pantry, so she brought us a bag of food!
- Kathleen Albo of West Los Angeles also generously brought us a bag of food!
- Members of the Gajanan Maharaj America Devotees Parivar in Torrance have donated before and they wanted to help us again during this challenging time, so they dropped off 125 pounds of food!
- Our friends at Journey of Faith in Manhattan Beach called us and said they had "a few boxes" of food donations for us. Low and behold, they show up with a small truckload of food. The 300+ pounds of food was even pre-sorted and categorized!
- Young Rae Kim of Torrance brought us a box of food, and he was so inspired that he said he was going to share the opportunity with members of his church!
- As we mentioned above, the Old Torrance Neighborhood Association dropped off a food donation, including two of the items we need most: breakfast foods and canned vegetables!
We are accepting non-perishable food donations right now. However, along with using masks and social distancing, we currently require appointments to drop them off. Click here for complete details on our temporary food donation procedures, our Shelf-Stable Food Shopping List and more!
- We also received some much-needed items anonymously through our Amazon Wish List. Thank you to whomever donated the jelly and pasta sauce in non-glass/non-breakable containers!
- Quotes of the Month -
"Stop measuring days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence."
- Alan Watts
"The most important way to take care of ourselves during this difficult time is to connect with each other."
- Nathan Swaringen, LCSW
Clinical therapist at the Guidance Center in Long Beach
"What's so true about times like now is that there's financial currency, but then there's kindness currency. They're both equally as important. There's a lot of people who are at home right now that are wondering how they can help... one of the ways that you can is to be kind. You being kind every day helps make it better for all the people that are scrambling at home or scrambling with their families."
- Lady Gaga
During an interview on The Tonight Show: At Home Edition
Featured Kindness Opportunity
Connecting with Others Using Teddy Bears
In communities across the country, people are putting things in their windows to cheer up passersby. This has been well-received by families as they enjoy walks around the neighborhood, and children everywhere are having a great time looking for these special signs and other items!
When we found out that our Old Torrance neighborhood was doing this - and specifically a "bear hunt" with teddy bears displayed in windows - we knew we had to participate! As the home of Operation Teddy Bear, we've certainly got a few...
You too can put smiles on the faces of those in your community when you participate in the community bear hunt by putting a bear in your window - or windows, like we did! You can also learn more about this now-worldwide phenomenon in this recent Time Magazine article.
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.