The East County community has gone above and beyond to help those in need over the past year.
From students organizing donations for local businesses to adults volunteering to shop for their vulnerable neighbors, East County residents and businesses have stepped up to fill a need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One group truly demonstrating the unique sense of community in the area is Brentwood Strong. Founded by longtime resident and business owner Seana Fippin, this group pairs trusted shoppers with seniors and the immune compromised who are unable to leave their homes due to the pandemic. Once the organization was up and running, it became more than a shopping network, using a web of service-minded individuals from the City of Brentwood and Rotary Club of Brentwood to organize food drives.
“It turned into a higher demand for food, not even as much with the seniors as with the underserved parts of our community,” Fippin explained. “It’s become about 50/50 now – we are still pairing seniors up, but we are really doing more outreach, helping organize and be boots-on-the-ground for food distribution every week or two.”
For more information on Brentwood Strong, or to donate, visit www.brentwoodstrong.com.
Operation Helping Hand
Operation Helping Hand is a youth-run grassroots coalition born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Begun by Damanpreet Singh, a 19-year-old Brentwood resident, the group is meant to invest in the local community.
“I am a big believer in the boomerang effect, where you go to college and then come back and help your community, and so that’s what I’m trying to do,” said Singh, who is currently on a leave of absence from Stanford University.
Singh founded Operation Helping Hand in the spring of 2020 after seeing so many people concerned over food security when shelter-in-place orders closed down nonessential businesses, causing a loss of income for many disadvantaged families. Singh hopes to create long-term solutions to end hunger in his community.
“We are really community powered, but fortunately Brentwood is a really good community and everyone here is super giving,” he said.
The Learning Community Project
Founded by Heritage High School juniors Hailey Miranda and Ysaach Habos, the Learning Community Project (TLCP) was designed to help their younger contemporaries.
“As students ourselves, we recognize that many students have trouble finding the help they need to succeed to their fullest potential at school, especially during the pandemic,” said 16-year-old Hailey.
She and Ysaach founded their organization to help mitigate this issue. Their board of 10 officers and 25 tutors provide tutoring in academic subjects and offer art classes to over 50 students statewide. Ysaach, who is also 16, noted they want to share a value of academics with their students and help disadvantaged students through donations.
Interested parents can contact TLCP through their website, coordinating subjects, meeting times and preferred platforms. Tutors utilize Zoom for their meetings, unless parents request another platform, such as Google Classrooms. Hailey said the group makes an effort to pair students with tutors who have the same interests to facilitate a positive relationship.
“If a student has an interest in sports or art, we try to match a tutor with that same interest to them, so they can make a connection,” she said. “Tutoring is not just about learning the subject – it’s about making connections with the people you are learning with. I feel like that makes the experience more fruitful.”
Seams to Help
Seams to Help (StoH) is another group of community members who have banded together to lend a hand. While many individuals have gone into the business of making and selling masks, the ladies and gentlemen of StoH are mass producing and donating cloth masks. Sandy Grossman-Morris founded the group through Facebook when she saw a need she could fill with her skills.
“We have donated over 7,000 masks to date,” Grossman-Morris said. “We gave a mask to every single employee of the Brentwood school district ... and we also donated 300 masks to city hall to get city employees covered.”
Grossman-Morris noted there are many jobs besides sewing – volunteers also sort, prep and cut fabric and make deliveries. Her assembly line system ensures that all volunteers are wearing masks and gloves while working and complying with all social distancing protocols.
Seams to Help is happy to accept donations of time or supplies but is unable to accept monetary donations, as it is not yet an official 501(c)3. Donations can be dropped off at the Postal Annex at 3130 Balfour Road, Suite D, in Brentwood, or mailed to 3130 Balfour Road, Suite D, #112, Brentwood CA 94513. Serious volunteers can request to join the group’s Facebook page by visiting http://bit.ly/thepressnet_SeamsToHelp.
Print For Lives
Another group reaching out to help is Print For Lives, begun by members of the robotics club at Heritage High School. Along with donated items, these students are using their own resources to 3D print and donate face shields to local schools and businesses.
The group prints a model of their own design dubbed Protector One. It takes approximately two hours to print plus a 15-minute assembly time.
To date, the group has printed and donated 485 face shields.
“There is still a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Robotics Club Vice President Aaron Wong. “A lot of people are doing great things at this time, and we are making sure that we can keep people safe during this horrible pandemic.”