A LETTER FROM JANET
THE STATISTICS ARE SAD AND SOBERING. Over 1.3 million people in Los Angeles who celebrated the New Year with a job are out of work as I write this – some will not find another one this year. As I gaze out my office window at so many of these newly unemployed families who have joined our regular clients….lined up early and waiting to receive food … on foot, and in cars … my heart aches for the stress that they are still experiencing. I imagine their feelings of frustration over having to line up, maybe even shame for having to rely on others and the food bank to feed their families, some for the first time ever.
The past few months have been difficult ones for everyone, perhaps even for you. Again and again we have all come up against our biggest fears – concern for our health and personal safety, shortages of essential items, and job loss. How then do I offer you a message of hope and….gratitude? The answer for me is simple. I remember the people you have helped feed – more than 30,000 of them in 9 weeks. The care and peace of mind you have offered families you may never meet.
And my mind wanders also to the staff and volunteers who have showed up day after day, week after week to pack boxes, make phone calls, drive trucks, take temperatures and distribute food – board members and the general public alike have all set aside their personal fears to join us when short-staffed, to make sure that the Food Bank’s doors remain open in keeping with our promise to the community. Some staff have taken a moment to share their experiences with you in this newsletter. You… and they are the heroes of this moment. I have witnessed such kindness, selflessness, and open hearts. It brings to mind the words of the ancient Sufi poet Rumi… words that I turn to often.
Be a Lamp, a lifeboat, a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.
So, thank you for all you have done and continue to do through MEND.
President & CEO
IN THE FOOD BANK WITH ADAM
90, 100, 110 days on… COVID-19 has affected us in innumerable ways. Social distancing-- those extra six-feet of security-- along with the face mask— which now come in different colors, patterns and designs-- are already well-entrenched into our daily habits.
At first, we struggled with how to relate to one another given these new limits. How do you show warmth, understanding or even camaraderie with a face mask and standing six feet away? How does a team work together even when they can’t be together? How do you keep steadfast in your mission to serve people’s needs when the systems and plans you have put down to do so are no longer valid?
But now, I have noticed that we have learned from and overcome some of this. We have replaced the handshake with an “elbow flap” and a smile on your face with a smile in your eyes. We have learnt to rely more on teamwork and become more adaptable as the world around us throws us curves. We have thought and worked “outside the box” in order to ensure we are here to serve the public.
And the people who have been lining up for food have also noticed. Even though we can’t comfortably have a conversation with them as we used to because of distancing and the mask, my team and I have heard the “thank yous” shouted through covered mouths and seen the smile in their eyes as they walk away with food for their family.
Maybe social distancing was just what we all needed to bring us closer together.
ANGELA, ON WHAT SHE FOUND MOST HEARTENING
I was barely a month into my new job when it all started. MEND guessed from the outset – correctly – that the demand for food would be unprecedented. So I, along with most staff, jumped in to help in the Food Bank (along with our other duties). In the first weeks, I was immediately struck by the fear in people’s eyes, and I quickly realized that I too was fearful. But I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the huge need that our community was experiencing, and that I have the privilege of being able to help them.
Seeing people walk-up, often because they do not have access to a car… and seeing the looks on their faces, I remembered the reason I joined the organization – to help others. As I handed out food bags to people in line, I recognized that they could not see my welcoming smile, so I made sure I was waving … and offering words of encouragement. I was surprised that so many were also thinking of my safety, asking me, genuinely… “How are you doing?” But, most of all, I experienced (and continue to) so much gratitude from our clients each time … for the food they were receiving and for the staff and volunteers who are showing up to serve them.
ANA, ON HOW FAMILIES ARE COPING
The shutdown changed everything. I was tasked with shifting face to face case management services to remote services. I knew that this would be a challenge for me and my team because we had to quickly change how we worked without the in-person connection that is crucial. But we knew the importance of continuing to support our most vulnerable families. So, we shifted the focus of our weekly check-ins, sharing updates on MEND’s services and helping our families figure out how to obtain the additional financial assistance they needed.
The families all faced the same challenges and struggles. They were concerned about their health and financial security. Out of work, they were once again afraid of what the future held in store for them. And like millions of Americans they were faced with a brand new concern: homeschooling their children. They worried: “How can I do this without a formal education?” My interns and I found ourselves talking through these fears and encouraging our families to continue to work toward their goals. And there was also personal anxiety; as we struggled with this new reality, we found that we missed our own families and friends.
Over the months we have all adjusted. The program year was scheduled to end in May 2020. So, it was hard on everyone – postponing the graduation party, saying goodbye to my amazing interns over video conference, not knowing when we would be able to reunite in person. But our work continues with every conversation, every check-in to see how clients are doing, and every word of hope to lift discouraged spirits.
MAGGIE SHARES FROM THE HEART
If you could see my heart, you would see it smiles. As I sit in my new home office (sometimes the kitchen island, other times wherever I can find private space in my house) my two year old runs round and around, dances, sings or naps in my arms (my favorite). I am thankful for the reminder that no matter how tough things get, life has many beautiful moments worth fighting for. As MEND’s program lead, the past few months have been about adapting our programs to the new reality, putting strong safety protocols in place, and ensuring that resources are there to meet increasing needs. I know that most staff have been working without a break, so I also check in with them often to make sure that they’re doing okay. I have so much gratitude for them and countless people, like you, who enable MEND to serve the community. As my son starts singing to himself… my heart smiles again. I hope that yours is smiling too for the peace of mind you have brought to countless people who are struggling.
A Summer Wish List
Your kind donations of much needed items like these mean the world this summer:
FOOD – peanut butter, granola bars, oatmeal, canned tuna, beans, tomatoes, chili, vegetables and/or fruit, soups, and dry goods such as rice, spaghetti, and beans.
CANOPIES – four 10X20 canopies to protect from the sun during food distribution.
BIG WISH – $2,000 to purchase back braces for our food handlers and install a roller to assist the packing process.
Drop off items at MEND, 10641 San Fernando Road, Pacoima, CA 91331 on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, 9am-1pm. Or call Cristina at, (818) 686-7360.
Make Hope a Monthly Habit
HERE’S A GREAT WAY to automate your giving and make an impact all year long! Your generous gift will help us feed and serve the most vulnerable in our community.
Your automatic monthly or quarterly gift makes cash-flow predictable and our work possible. Call Scott Mikels, CFO at, (818) 686-7353 to set up your recurring gift today. Thank you for making life better for so many in our community.
Partnering for the Future
A WELL-PLANNED GIFT will ensure that the impact of your legacy of kindness and support for people in need continues for decades to come. When you are ready to make this commitment or if you have questions, contact Chanya Blumenkrantz, Chief Development Officer at (818) 686-7320. You can also find legacy information and sample documents online here: www.mendpoverty.org/make-a-donation/mend-legacy-society.