When I found out I was going to be in charge of the Grab & Go Distribution Site at Cochran Middle School, I made sure to bring the LA’s BEST culture with me. Everyone’s anxiety levels were really heightened because of the pandemic and staff were nervous to come to the sites. But, they still made the sacrifice to serve food to our communities.
Even though we are all wearing masks, standing far apart and taking all safety precautions, our staff were (and are) putting their health at risk to provide this service to the community, so I wanted to make sure this was a memorable and enjoyable experience for them. I would implement morning activities to get the staff’s blood flow going and brain working. The activities invited staff to get to know each other, build meaningful relationships and network. During the activities everyone was laughing and smiling. So many of the staff would thank me because we made the experience meaningful and fun.
I created another way to build community — weekly themes! Staff came dressed up for Dodger day, NBA day, Luau day, Comic Con day and Coachella day. The staff really enjoyed it! There were rivalries between the staff to see who could decorate their stations the best. The community members enjoyed our theme weeks too! They would bring their jerseys and show us their Dodger bumper stickers. It was so much fun and really brought all of us together.
We noticed that a lot of families would bring their children, so we began handing out stickers (following all Covid-19 safety procedures). Kids got a real joy out of it and we saw more kids come to pick up the meals just for the stickers. This little girl would always come in her scooter and she said to me “I like the meals because it reminds me of school. I miss getting my milk carton and standing in line.” We began to build connections with the community, and parents would give us “bendiciones” or blessings. One day, we even had a socially distanced dance battle with the community members!
When I had to leave the Grab & Go Site to continue my graduate program at USC, I was really disappointed. This was my home for the past 3 months and working there made a huge impact on me. It’s such a great resource for the community and for our students who relied on free and reduced lunches from school. The families were so happy and grateful to pick up the different meals.
Even though I no longer work at the Grab & Go site, I still go and visit them. I always bring donuts and remind them, “Whatever you guys need me for, anything, letter of recommendation or whatever I can do to help you further yourself in the future just ask.” I got to know staff on a deep level. The community too. I feel proud that we brought joy and connection to them.
Although the Covid-19 crisis is negative, I’m grateful for this experience because otherwise I wouldn’t have met all the staff I met or built the meaningful relationships I did. Staying connected to the community was also something really powerful. We all need connection, and I am really glad that I was able to build that connection. Those three months will always have a special place in my heart.