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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

They were lined around the block (update of school supply drive 2017)

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Alejandro feeling proud! Photo by In Her Image Photography

When we arrived on Sunday, August 6, to deliver the school supplies to the children of farm workers living in the Watsonville area, they were already lined up around the block, standing in the hot sun. And they stood there for hours as we allowed the children to pick out their backpacks, one by one—more than 306 of them at that location.

The parents thanked us, blessed us, and helped their kids pick out their backpacks. Some of the kids hugged their new backpacks, some jumped up and down when they saw the one they wanted while pointing them out and tugging their parents over, and of course we had those sad faces when we had run out of their favorites. But when they saw the goodies inside, everything changed—paper, crayons, folders, markers, and more for the younger kids, while the older kids also received binders, calculators, and more.

Although it was a hot day with the sun being particularly strong and our team was parched and getting sunburned, we all were quick to remind ourselves of the lives these farm workers live and what they endure to not only help their children succeed but also put food on our tables. Our discomfort was nothing in comparison.

Food Empowerment Project
(F.E.P.) is an ethically-based vegan organization, and although we recognize the environmental and health benefits when eating vegan, we promote veganism because we do not want to contribute to the suffering and death of non-human animals. And as a vegan food justice organization that encourages people to consume more fruits and vegetables, we acknowledge the injustices that farm workers face, and we want to do our part to help right some of those wrongs.

For the fourth time, F.E.P. has coordinated a school supply drive for the children of farm workers.  We know how much they sacrifice for their children, and we do the school supply drive, not as an act of charity, but as a means of thanking them for all of their work while also making sure their children know how much we want them to succeed (and what superstars they are!).

The farm workers and organizations
First and foremost, thanks to the farm worker organizations that donated supplies. As in the past, we were able to work with the Center for Farmworker Families (CFF), the Graton Day Labor Center, Movimiento Cultural de la Union Indigena, and the United Farm Workers.

Drop-off locations
A huge thanks to Sandra & Joel Gluck and Billy Lovci for coordinating our drop-off locations and finding even morewe are so lucky to have your help!

A big thanks to all
drop-off locations that promoted and gathered the school supplies. We could not do this without the generosity of their space and their strong belief in this effort:
Center for Employment Training (San José); Assemblymember Ash Kalra’s office for securing and overseeing three locations in San José, one at City Hall, and the other at his state office and the Village Square Branch Library; La Peña Cultural Center (Berkeley); Marin Humane (Novato); Sanctuary Bistro (Berkeleythey also offered a 15% discount to those who brought school supplies); Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Santa Rosa (Glazer Center);  Stanford Prevention Research Center; Grand Lake Theatre (Oakland); Two Mammas Vegan Kitchen (Oakland); Rainbow Grocery Collective (San Francisco); Whole Foods Market (Noe Valley); Kissable Skin (San Juan Bautista); Discovery Learning Center (Santa Cruz); and Pachamama Alliance (San Francisco).

Just like last year, the Latino Employee Resource Group of PG&E served as a drop-off location for their offices. This year, we dedicated the drive to Kentara Padron, who recently passed away. He connected with me when we did our first public drive and wanted to collect at PG&E. You can learn more about him here: We are saddened and so sorry to lose his creative energy in this world.

Donations to our office:
Thank you so much to everyone who had school supplies shipped directly to our office. Our hearts were overflowing and so was our office! It was incredible! And, also, when we were running short of school supplies, thanks to all of you who shipped more, helped us do a call out, and stretched your budget to help!

This proved to be a very successful way of collecting supplies and one that we will continue.

And thank you to Mike Giottis, who organized a sing-along to the musical Hamilton in Petaluma, where they collected school supplies as well as took cash donations ($10― a Hamilton!)! We used the money they collected to buy needed supplies.

Picking up and packing!!

A big thanks to Billy Lovci and Ryan Frasier for helping us pick up the school supplies! That might sound easy, but schedules have to be coordinated.

Another huge thanks to the volunteers who helped to pack up the school supplies as well as drove to the various packing locations. Rohnert Park Library volunteers: Erika Galera, Sandra & Joel Gluck, Abbey Levine, Shelly & Eveline Welch, Linda Welch, Tara Baxter, Heidi Margocsy, Chef Evangelina Perez-Bechtel and John Bechtel, and Mark Hawthorne for treating everyone to lunch. A big thanks to Janet Shirley for finding space for us to do our packing in San Rafael, and thanks to her amazing team that came out to help pack and donated supplies as the day went on! Thanks also go out to the additional volunteers (who we have names for!) who also assisted: Erika Galera, Mark Hawthorne, Sandra & Joel Gluck, Bee Uytiepo, Kevin Cressa, Yvonne Goodrich and her wonderful son Jackson, and Sujatha Ramakrishna. And finally, for the team who put in a long, hard day at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in San José: Erika Galera, Jeremy Bradley, Mark Hawthorne, Chayanne Bardmess, Billy & Jasmine Lovci, Galera family (Adrian, Isaiah & Kristi), Sharon Daraphonhdeth, Lisa Roach, Lynnae Galea, Andrea Wilson, Bobby White, Skye Beaber, and Sujatha Ramakrishna.

More Delivery Details +

As you read up at the top, we made our delivery in Watsonville on a hot day. One of the young students, Alejandro, jumped into the back of the rental truck where we had overflowing backpacks. Turns out that Alejandro is seven and wants to be an artist. He was absolutely adorable and made everyone laugh when he was being silly and started to sing “I believe I can fly” as he was on the edge of the truck. He hung out until his family was in line to pick their supplies. We were sure to put extra art supplies in his bag to help him on his journey.

e did not have to turn anyone away as we had enough. However, we were told that after we left more families came by and a waiting list was started.

Thanks to Tara Baxter, Jeremy Bradley, Sharon
Daraphonhdeth, Erika Galera, Mark Hawthorne, George Lin, Heidi Margocsy and Tatiana Siegenthaler for all of their help with that delivery. It was incredibly rewarding, but also an exhausting experience.

That is why we were so lucky to have some of our supporters welcome us into their home and treat us to a vegan feast when we were done!

During the following week, Erika and I also delivered school supplies to the office of the United Farm Workers in Santa Rosa, to the Graton Day Labor Center, and to Movimiento Cultural de la Union Indigena.

This year was different than those in the past—for our drive and for those who we seek to support.

The vast majority of the farm workers we support are undocumented. They have always lived their lives with some fear but nothing like they are experiencing at present. Farm workers are scared to leave their homes, go out to buy food, or to walk their children to school. This is a climate of fear that they have always lived with but has been exacerbated by an uptick in hate speech and a person who seeks to have them deported following through on his threats.

Initially we received fewer school supplies than we did last year (until we put out a call letting you, our wonderful supporters, know), and when I was asked why I thought we received less, I realized that there are so many vulnerable communities being impacted right now, and those with a big heart are probably being spread thin.

Photo by In Her Image Photography

How much did we collect?

We collected 461 backpacks—92 more than last year! And again, thousands upon thousands of various supplies that we packed into those backpacks!

I want to thank the people who gave us cash donations so that we could purchase the supplies we were running out of to make sure that all of the kids had the same items in their backpacks. It is very important for us to make sure that the children all receive the same materials in each bag.

A big thank you to all of the other people involved who I didn’t specifically mention above:

Mariano Alvarez; Brooke Taylor Adkins; Jason Bayless; Valerie Belt; Patti Breitman; Jaya Bhumitra; Rebecca Coakley; Callie Coker; Katherine Connors; Fernando Cuenca; David Crosby; Nicole Dinato; Leticia Dominguez, Maria French, Esteban Garcia, Juan Garcia, Jes
ús Guzmán, Linda Harlow, Chef Barry Horton; Jennifer Jones Horton; Andrea Jacobson; Laura Knapp; Anika Lehde; Abbey Levine (mentioning again as she spent days in our office helping us count and organize the supplies); Kathy Loncarich; Cindy Machado; Audrey Marr; Bob Martinez; Cathy O’Brien; Cecilia Ossenbeck;  Jess, Jules and Chef Billy Page; Christa Paolucci; Dana Portnoy; Jan Prater; the Latino Employee Resource Group of PG&E; Mario Valadez;  pattrice jones; Stacie Shih; Sue Sullivan; Richard Tamez; Deborah Temple; Tatiana Tilley; Bianca Torres; Jocelyn and Meg York; and to our donors who supported this effort and all of our work!

A heartfelt thanks to all of you again for helping my vision become a reality. Your generosity constantly fills my heart with hope and gratitude.

The communities are now asking about this school supply drive, and so this is something we plan to continue to do as long as we are able.

A HUGE thanks to In Her Image Photography for donating their time and talent to capture the joy of the children getting their school supplies with both photos and video!
It also includes photos of the packing up of supplies.

F.E.P. encourages everyone to support corporate campaigns called by farm workers, such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Boycott Wendy’s campaign and the #BoycottDriscolls campaign called by the San Quentin workers in Mexico.