As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down in our City of Angels our friend and neighbor Pastor Lisa Williams of the San Pedro United Methodist Church headed to the encampments in our communities. What she discovered were confused and sad folks. No one knew what was happening or why things were closed and no one had come to visit. From there the organizing began. Together with her colleagues, community partners and kind hearted people throughout San Pedro and Lomita she organized meals to go out to the encampments each Saturday, knowing the Salvation army, The Garden Church, Curt's Kitchen and others would continue faithfully providing food to the hungry in our community. Then came the next step--as we watched businesses shutter and stay that way, and countless people loose their jobs leaving them unable to pay bills let alone provide food for themselves and their families, Pastor Lisa once again put out the call and the answer came back--Yes, we need to do something. Then the "what ifs" began. What if we work through the local 501c3 non-profit Feed and be Fed? What if the Quality of Life Committee of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce is involved, and the San Pedro Faith Consortium? What if we simply collect funds and disperse funds, small grants, just enough to help a little? What if... In late March 2020 the what ifs became a what now. We founded the team, set up bank accounts, began soliciting donations, made a logo, set up a page on the website and by early April we were receiving applications and distributing funds to those most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Families where both parents had lost jobs and children were trying to learn from home, unhoused folks living in their cars, people who had fallen ill and even lost family to the deadly virus. Along with the stores of heartbreak and loss we heard stories fo resilience, after distributing one grant of $300, the next week the money was returned to us in full because the applicant had been called back to work! We heard of mothers who were able to buy healthy food for their children because of the funds granted. Every little grant helped one of our neighbors in need. From our neighbors who were less affected by the pandemic we saw tremendous generosity. Our first grant funds came from the office of Supervisor Janice Hahn, followed by Councilman Joe Buscaino, we also received funds the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council, several local foundation and more than 80 individual donors, and in 9 months in 2020 we received more than $186,000. With the incredible and ongoing outpouring of generosity we were able to provide vital grants to more than 300 individuals and families and counting. As our work has grown and matured and expanded. Our small team made up of representatives from the San Pedro and Wilmington Chambers of Commerce, Feed and be Fed, LAFD, LAPD and the San Pedro Faith Consortium has added two programs to our work. The first is a restaurant voucher program which matches local restaurants with families in need providing the families with a special meal and the restaurants with business. The second program is a grab and go style meal provided at 6th and Grand on Wednesday evenings. Both programs were funded with dedicated funds from our community. As this pandemic continues to wear on longer than any of us expected we are ever so grateful for all the generosity which has helped our neighbors in need hang on during this most difficult of times. If you would like to support the Harbor Neighborhood Relief Fund or apply to the Harbor Neighborhood Relief Fund look here.
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