Long Beach: Good Tidings for the Holidays
By Dianne Anderson
Nothing could mask the holiday spirit over the Thanksgiving holiday with community groups and volunteers coming together at Andy Street Community Association to distribute food baskets, vouchers and sanitizers to local families.
The event gave away baskets with turkey and all the fixings to 200 families, along with New Hope Home seniors and other groups in need.
And, they had plenty of masks to give away.
Community advocate LaVern Duncan said their nonprofit also supported six Long Beach Unified School District high school seniors, winners of the Andy St. Scholarship and Ipads. College scholarships ranged from $500 – $1500, with Monya Jones receiving the highest award for all her hard work. She is now headed to Grambling State University.
Next up, Duncan said their organization wants to safely get food out to the community and toys to the kids to meet the obvious increased need. She has 96 families on Andy Street, which includes about 150 kids, but they are not quite sure how the toys will pan out his year.
They are helping wherever they can, and she said she is looking to participate with the Long Beach NCNW, which has a broader community outreach.
“I was giving out food vouchers masks and sanitizers because it’s necessary. For toys, I’m still wondering how I’m going to do that,” she said. “There are a lot of families out there in dire straights.”
Through the pandemic, Pamela Foddrell has been brainstorming the best local outreach using all of the available virtual tools.
All year long, her elves, decked in masks with signature elf socks, have been working overtime to be ready for her North Pole Holiday Boutique.
Her daughter, who is an elf, also happens to be a Licensed Vocational Nurse.
“We want our masks on, we have hand sanitizers, we have waivers to see if they have a fever. We have temperature guns, and we’re doing everything we can before a person steps in,” said Foddrell, founder/Executive Director of The HOPE Foundation, Inc. (Helping Others Prosper Economically).
About 300 to 350 will be served through Tree of Hope, and she recently added another nonprofit that she will help, probably bringing the number to about 400. The Holiday Boutique is for those who have been financially impacted by the pandemic, on unemployment, furloughed or fired, or don’t qualify for social services.
This year is harder, not only to get food to the families, but knowing many families are not thinking about Christmas toys as much as paying the rent. She is hearing serious personal stories on the street.
Her organization started taking online registrations in October and capacity filled up unusually fast.
Foddrell, who can’t be on the front lines because of her underlying condition, Sarcoidosis, is taking care of all this year’s shopping from home. Boxes are piling up around her, and she’s wrapping for hundreds of kids.
They are also giving away a pre-lit Christmas tree as an online raffle item to the winner that can pick up the tree in an hour. As many donations as come in will be redistributed to the community, who are still contacting her to ask for toys.
They are getting good community support and business sponsorship, and accepting donations until December 19 for toys and gift cards from Amazon or other big box stores. Many kids are hoping for bikes.
The more toys they receive, she said the more families they can serve. Registered families will come to a large downtown hotel chain where they can come to “shop” for free toys. Others can receive curbside distribution.
“If they’d rather do curbside, we’ll have our elves bring it out to the car, pop your trunk we’ll put in there, and you’re on your merry way,” she said.
While the season is not without its usual stresses, this year is exceptionally challenging because guidelines keep changing. So far, she had to cancel three events, and adapted to changes in pandemic restrictions three times within the past week.
It’s important for her to keep the toys in one safe place, which happens to be her home until she rents a U-Haul to get to the location.
“I have been doing this ahead of time because I don’t know when things are going to shut down again. My living room and dining room are filled to capacity,” she added.
But Foddrell is thankful for her recent $2,000 Port of Long Beach grant for the Holiday Boutique. It will go toward helping kids and families with grocery gift cards, along with whatever is leftover from the event.
“We’re also doing homeless outreach with string backpacks filling with personal hygiene and granola bars for Mental Health America, and backpacks for their street team,” she said. “We’re blessed through all of this. People are still donating.”
For those that want to donate or receive toys, she is asking them to contact her by email.
To donate, or get help, see https://www.foundhope2009.org/ or firstname.lastname@example.org