The Springbrook Mobile Food Bank’s strengths and weaknesses are one and the same: its cultural diversity. Unfortunately, this neighborhood had no direct leadership to channel these diversities – until the Springbrook Mobile Food Bank came to town.
When we first started, none of us had any idea of what we were getting into or knew anything about Springbrook. At the time, Springbrook was literally divided by race with specific boundaries keeping individuals separated from one another. One of our stops was mostly Hispanic, and the community members wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. One Saturday, I felt a tug at my tunic, and looked down to see “Johnathan”, a 4-year-old Hispanic boy, holding out his hand and asking “Me help?”. I gave him calendars to hand out. His mother had a huge grin and all of her friends gathered around her, also grinning. After that, Johnathan helped every weekend, and his mom and her friends would tell me about him. Real communication was born.
Work with the children first, and the parents will follow. An older, white woman at another stop came to The Mobile to find out who we were. She liked the idea and started bringing us cold drinks in the summer and hot drinks in the winter. She also babysat 2 little Hispanic girls. Their father had recently been deported to El Salvador, leaving the mother and children here. The mom worked but couldn’t afford child care, so this woman cared for them on her rounds. Before long, the girls were helping at The Mobile and the Junior Volunteer Program was born. Grandmas take pictures of their “babies” working in the line. By the end of the season, The Mobile had become fully integrated into the community with volunteers who are from many backgrounds. The Junior Volunteer Program was even recognized by the Lakewood City Council!
The most important element in the success of The Mobile is our honesty and authenticity. We never promise anything we can’t deliver and we never lie to the people of Springbrook. As a result, we are seen and referred to as the Traveling Community Center. Originally, volunteers would take turns preparing lunch for other volunteers on Saturdays. This soon grew to include any homeless or just plain hungry folks. One of our volunteers also hosts a community picnic in the park each Wednesday, and it is held under a covering that was created for The Mobile. The Mobile also lead to the founding of a community-based group named Springbrook Connections. SBC hosts a community Thanksgiving Dinner for more than 300 people. Folks from the neighborhood actually come in, sit down, and dine with each other regardless of cultural background. SBC also partners with Caring for Kids, a Christmas Give-A-Way that serves over 450 people. Finally, they also hold The End of Summer Celebration. Volunteers from the Mobile are directly involved with all of these events. The Mobile is the main conductor of flyers for all of these events and each year they get bigger and bigger.
Other organizations such as Pacific Neighborhood Association, Molina Health Care, CHOICE, CLASS, Caring for Kids, Lakewood Police Dept. Billionaire Bloodlinez use The Mobile to disseminate information. Caring for Kids has partnered with The Mobile to provide emergency lunch meals to at-risk kids, blankets, air beds, dental hygiene kits, and clothing for the homeless and others in need. The Mobile’s volunteers have been instrumental in the inauguration and continuation of the Boys & Girls Club Summer Day Camp. Volunteers from The Mobile worked with the First Lions Club and the Lakewood Parks Department to initiate the original Community Garden. What started as a modest 4 beds and 4 baby fruit trees has evolved into a fence enclosed 42 bed garden with shed, murals, and planters.
This reflection was written by a long-time volunteer of the Springbrook Mobile Food Bank, a program of the Food Connection. Every Saturday, its volunteers deliver food and services to three sites in the Springbrook neighborhood of Lakewood. The great work of this program wouldn’t be possible without the support of people like you, so thank you!