Sowing the Seeds of Compassion

  • 12/03/2015
  • Reporters Desk

Community Support of Harbor Interfaith is on the Rise

By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

Despite the high-profile divisiveness over how to respond to the growing number of homeless people in San Pedro, Harbor Interfaith Services reports a quiet but significant surge in community support for its 40-year-old mission to empower the homeless and working poor to achieve self-sufficiency.

This year some 350 families sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner provided by Harbor Interfaith, about the same as the past three years. But the increase in volunteers, donations and logistical support for the 2015 effort was striking.

This year’s food drive included donations of 215 turkeys from the Palos Verdes Lions Club, 100 complete baskets plus turkey from the ILWU, as well as turkeys from Niko’s Pizzeria, Big Nick’s Pizza, Happy Diner and Saving San Pedro.

The Omelette & Waffle Shop in San Pedro volunteered freezer space for the overflow of turkeys. Ray Deeter Tire Town in San Pedro also held a collection for Harbor Interfaith in recent weeks.

Furthermore, local residents and groups have shown they aren’t going to just rely on Harbor Interfaith to make a difference this holiday season.

From Helping the Homeless in Need to Seeds of Compassion

Seeds of Compassion, the new name for the group formerly known as Helping the Homeless in Need—San Pedro, hosted an early Thanksgiving for 200 people at Plaza Park. The Nov. 19 feast spread across 15 tables beneath three pop-up tents and featured a medical van that treated the health problems and injuries of people who, in many cases, did not have state issued identification, a Social Security card or health insurance.

But the new name and the happy Thanksgiving were indications of a general upswing in a variety of areas for Seeds of Compassion. Founders Nora Hilda-Vela and Fernando Escobedo have increased their reach by forming alliances with the likes of Chef Basil Kimbrew, the Love Mission, People Helping People in Pasadena and Feeding the Less Fortunate.

Hilda-Vela also noted the increase in Seeds of Compassion’s volunteers over the past year—first from three to eight, now up to 45. Private donations to a food pantry that was once personally supplied by Hilda-Vela and Escobedo have increased the number feedings from three or four a week to every day. They also hand out hygiene kits as they connect the indigent to Section 8 referrals and the newly housed with furniture.

Helping Those in Need,

By Word and By Deed

On Nov. 19, 300 more people enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner thanks to Heart of the Harbor Helping Those in Need—Wilmington, along with several other Harbor Area community groups.

David Gonzalez, one of the founders of the Wilmington group, said the most memorable part about the event for him was taking a young woman struggling with addiction to drug rehabilitation center operated by Victory Outreach ministries.

“We had been playing phone tag for more than a week,” Gonzalez said. “But on the day of the event she agreed to get some help. She got something to eat and then I drove her to Victory Outreach.”

Helping Those in Need—Wilmington is teaming up with Calvary Light Christian Center and Harbor City’s Team Aloha, another community group reaching to the Harbor Area’s homeless, are participating in National Jacket Day on Dec. 15 in which they are collecting jackets and other warm clothing to be give to homeless veterans.

Helping Those in Need—Wilmington is also participating in the Santa’s Letter for Kids campaign in which volunteers respond to children’s letters to Santa Claus and donate unwrapped toys on Dec. 20. The gifts would be delivered at the Dec. 23 luncheon at the Calvary Light Christian Center in Wilmington.

ILWU Local 13 Gives Thanks

On Nov. 24, Local 13 of the ILWU hosted its 18th annual Thanksgiving Feed the Community Day. The union gave away hundreds food baskets filled with turkeys, vegetables and other Thanksgiving trimmings.

Using a list of qualified pre-selected families from nonprofit organizations such as Harbor Interfaith Services and Harbor Area churches and schools, the union was able feed 1,300 families.

Local elected officials such as Rep. Janice Hahn, Long Beach Councilman Roberto Uranga, and Long Beach college district candidate Vivian Malauulu and her family were also there to lend a hand at the annual event.

San Pedro/Wilmington NAACP Gives Back

For almost 20 years, the San Pedro/Wilmington NAACP-1069 was inactive. But San Pedro civic leader Joe Gatlin and motivational speaker Dr. Cheyenne Bryant picked up the gauntlet this past summer and reactivated the local chapter.

This past month, the group has participated in the Harbor Interfaith Services Thanksgiving food basket giveaway, the Gaffey Street Diner event feeding low-income families and partnered with One Hundred and Eighty Degrees and Still Standing and JB With Open Arms in distributing food and clothing in downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row.

One Hundred and Eighty Degrees is a nonprofit that aims to empower youth and families to reverse the impacts of malnutrition and homelessness in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, while JB with Open Arms is a pop-up charitable organization that randomly selects a community across the country and provides a helping hand.

Bryant and Gatlin, along with the chapter’s executive board have set the ambitious goals of joining the San Pedro Homeowners Association in the fight against the Rancho LPG tanks in North San Pedro, registering new voters, and increasing advocacy for job creation and vocational training as a means of addressing the Los Angeles Harbor Area’s quality of life issues.

In addition to giving thanks by giving of their time and resources, every community group, while not always in complete alignment, are like the fingers of the same hand. This past Thanksgiving was a glimpse of what could happen if those fingers closed into a fist to address homelessness when elected officials can’t.


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