Love in the Mirror: Help for the Homeless
By Dianne Anderson
It’s that time of year again when Love in the Mirror ramps up efforts for more volunteers, calling for the very young to the seniors, to come out and give in the form of socks, socks, and more socks.
Socks are the most in-demand item for the homeless.
“Our goal every year is 10,000 socks,” said Renee Corona, executive director of Love in the Mirror. “It’s what most homeless people ask for, it’s more important than anything to keep them warm, keep them clean. Sometimes they don’t have shoes.”
Youth, grandparents and grandkids get together not only for the sock drive, but also to collect and distribute food and hygiene products. Their nonprofit works with local businesses, the Girl Scouts and local churches, and many other community-building events. They take their volunteerism to the streets of Long Beach, downtown Los Angeles and out to Orange County.
Initially, she said the nonprofit wanted to open up volunteerism opportunities for all ages to serve hungry communities.
“It’s a lot of families. We have peanut butter and jelly sandwich-making events, so we make sometimes 7,000 sandwiches at a time,” she said.
During the summer, it’s all about backpacks and school supplies, but from October to December, the organization gears up for food to the community, and much-needed toy drives start now.
“We work with the City Health Department getting hygiene to homeless individuals, and they found that the best way for the kids to help out is by collecting items,” she said. “We started partnering with organizations to provide hygiene, clothes, school learning materials and backpacks, wherever we see the need.”
When the pandemic first hit, the nonprofit already had amassed many masks and hygiene products. They brought all their supplies out of storage to the city to be redistributed back to those in need.
The program also works closely with the Multi-service center homeless services, and is a long-time partner with Free Mom Hugs, Gay for Good, and Food Finders nonprofits. A lot of their donations come from food banks, in-kind donations from the community, and corporate offices.
“Old airline blankets and things they don’t need anymore, we get thousands of them we find them in places where they make the most impact, and we’ll find groups to help us put together kits with what we have,” she said.
She credits the founding of the nonprofit to her then young son Jonas, who she regularly brought out with other family members to collect food to distribute to the homeless and children of skid row. At the time, no other nonprofits wanted small children to volunteer.
Today, he is 18, and is heavily involved in recruiting to keep Love in the Mirror volunteerism running smoothly.
When they first started, they didn’t advertise but somehow 150 children were served at their Christmas toy giveaway. The next year was 300, and the next 700, and continues growing.
Despite having almost missed it because of the pandemic, last year’s giveaway was huge. At the last minute, she said it was great to work with Long Beach and 8th District Councilman Al Austin to create a drive-through event.
“We had to get creative. We had people register to tell us their interests and we created custom boxes. We had a huge event, it was great. This year we may do it the same way,” she said.
One of the program’s longest-serving hardest working volunteers, Anthony Moguel, has been with the organization from the beginning. He hasn’t missed out on a single holiday event to help the community.
For the upcoming event, which usually draws about 1,000 or more, he said it’s a little bit of hard work, but nothing he can’t handle.
“The pandemic this past year, everything was slowly moving, but we did have enough [volunteers] with all the gift wrapping, and it was creative to have the drive-by. But, we’re always looking for more volunteers to help in the organization,” he said.
In some circles by definition, Moguel, an amputee since he was two years old, may be labeled as disabled, but to him, he is more than able. He refuses to let anyone dictate his circumstance.
“I go hiking, bike riding swimming, basketball, soccer, I do everything,” said Moguel, 24, who joined the nonprofit outreach when he was a senior year of Cabrillo High School.
When he’s not volunteering, he is a senior working on his degree in sociology at Cal State University, Long Beach, looking to get into mental health social work. He also teaches an after-school program, leads the science program, and is considering getting his teaching credential.
His volunteer duties are rewarding, and he is always out recruiting for more participation, and help with crowd control.
“I just love the love environment,” he said. “I love working in the community and when I first researched Love in the Mirror, they have a great vibe to help out the communities.”
To volunteer or get help, see https://loveinthemirror.org