East County communities have suffered through shelter-in-place orders, rising COVID-19 cases and a slew of inconveniences since the pandemic took hold in March.
During that time, though reasons for complaint abound, residents have also seen the rise of a different kind – volunteer groups and individuals stepping up to help those most in need.
From food banks to donated personal protection equipment to those willing to risk public places for those who can’t, East County has risen up and come together to push forward through the tough times.
One such grassroots organization sprouted to help seniors who are staying safe at home get the food and supplies they need. Seana Fippin of the Rotary Club of Brentwood, took a small idea and used her large network of associates to grow it into a successful volunteer network called Brentwood Strong. Through their website, volunteers are paired with residents who can’t leave their homes for health reasons. The volunteers connect with the community member in need, get a list, pick up the items and drop them off, avoiding contact as much as possible to protect everyone in the process. There is no fee for the service and the community member pays for their own groceries.
Fippin began Brentwood Strong in March, and is still pairing up shoppers with community members.
“We just had a couple seniors over the last week sign-up, it seems to be picking up a little momentum as of late,” Fippin said. “We also ended up doing some food donations, very organically at first, and in conjunction with the City of Brentwood, so thanks to them and their support we were feeding 500 families with the last food distribution.”
Fippin said she had collaborated with the US Food Bank to get boxes of food, and she and her volunteers added fresh necessities like milk and eggs. The donations happen roughly once a month and have helped many families in East County.
“We have a strong network of volunteers right now,” she said. “We aren’t turning anyone away ... There are so many people showing up and doing the work and sharing the good news and that just speaks volumes about the people in our community.”
Another group reaching out to help is Print For Lives, begun by members of the robotics club at Heritage High School. These students are using their own and donated resources to 3D print and donate face shields to local schools, businesses and hospitals.
Currently, the group prints two kinds of shields – a medical grade model and a Protector One model, meant for businesses and schools. The medical model uses a design created by the National Institute of Health, and the Protector One model is their own design. They take 2-3 hours to print plus a 15-minute assembly time.
To date, the group has donated 315 masks, and are preparing to donate another 150 to Kaiser and other businesses.
“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 in this time and we are making sure that we can keep people safe during this horrible pandemic.”
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 just 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.
“Our volunteers are phenomenal,” she added. “The donors have been incredible and very helpful, but there are more projects we want to do and we need more supplies and that is why we are becoming a 501(c)3. That will enable people to donate money to us so that we can purchase supplies wholesale and stretch those donor dollars.”
For more information on Brentwood Strong, to volunteer, request help or donate supplies, visit www.brentwoodstrong.com.
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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/3842877459063734/.