With many experiencing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Marino High School’s Red Cross Club decided to take action. Last weekend, the group held the first of two food drives to assist those in need.
Marcus Chua, a junior at SMHS and the club’s president, first conceptualized the idea for a food drive back in May. He reached out to Friends In Deed — a Pasadena nonprofit that provides basic needs to families — and reached an agreement to hold the events. Last week, more than 70 volunteers collected 105 bags of food, or about 1,600 pounds. The Red Cross Club will hold another drive this Saturday, Oct. 3, where they hope to come close to last week’s total.
“We wanted to find an opportunity that would allow San Marino High School students to contribute to the local community, while still maintaining social distancing,” said Chua.
A simple procedure during normal times, the event took on extra layers of responsibility due to the need for social distancing.
“We wanted to make sure that the delivery process would be run smoothly and safely,” Chua explained. “We instructed all of our food donors to leave their food items outside of their houses at exactly 2 p.m. on Sept. 26 and Oct. 3. From there, we instructed our 30 student volunteer drivers to drive to all of these houses and pick up the food. This allowed for a contactless and safe transaction between our donors and drivers. Once the drivers finished their pickup route, they would drive the food bags to the Friends In Deed site. Throughout the whole planning process, the Red Cross cabinet was focused on maintaining social distancing and worked hard to formulate a plan that would minimize the physical interaction between our volunteers.”
The collection event benefits the food pantry division of Friends In Deed, which provides food assistance to low-income and no-income families in the Greater Pasadena and Altadena area.
“Right now, because of the coronavirus pandemic, they are providing food to more than 400 households per week, which is approximately 1,000-plus people,” said Chua. “This food allows many of the families to offset the rising cost of food to pay for rent or other monthly necessities.”
Cabinet members of the Red Cross Club include Chua; vice president Rediet Retta; treasurer Alexa Hu; secretary Charisse Chih; publicity officer Jocelyn Tang; event coordinators Carolyn Tao and Kaitlyn Ng and upperclassman representative Parsa Lahouti.
Membership in the group typically hovers around 100, but this year it has ballooned to 213.
“I would credit our significant increase in membership to our new, more proactive publicity strategy as well as my leadership team’s dedication to helping the club grow and thrive,” said Chua. “Additionally, I think the online learning platform that SMUSD is using this year also helped, as we’ve been able to adapt our events and meeting schedule around virtual learning so that more people are able to attend.”
Tao said she was “grateful” for the opportunity to help plan the event.
“During the pandemic, people need help more than ever and I enjoyed playing a role in lending a hand to my own local community,” she said. “I hope that we can continue to contribute to our society and plan many more engaging service opportunities in the near future.”
Tim Nistler, the Friends In Deed representative and director of the food pantry, expressed a similar sentiment.
“Support from the community is incredibly important in our efforts to get more and more food to the people in need,” Nistler said. “The San Marino High Red Cross Club’s food drive was outstanding. This will go a long way in helping us serve our community. The students should be really proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
Anyone in the community who would like to donate to the Red Cross Club’s efforts are encouraged to email Chua at email@example.com.