Same as in WWII, Richmond home front supports front line

Same as in WWII, Richmond home front supports front line
Dedicated West Contra Costa Unified staff and community volunteers have been distributing food at schools and local churches to ensure struggling local families are fed during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place period.

The Craneway Pavilion’s swift transition into a 255-bed field hospital earlier this month harkened back to the World War II effort on Richmond’s home front, when the community mobilized war ships, military vehicles and supplies to support soldiers on the frontlines of battle.

Just like soldiers who fought overseas during WWII, those on the front lines of the war against COVID-19 — including healthcare workers, first responders, and food distribution workers – also need the community’s support. And just as it was in the 1940s, the greater Richmond community has once again rolled up its collective sleeves in the spirit of Rosie the Riveter to lend a hand, from businesses large and small to nonprofits and community volunteers.

Chevron recently donated 100,000 surgical masks to four health care providers, including three in Contra Costa County, and contributed $500,000 toward an initiative by DonorsChoose to provide remote learning grants to support teachers in underserved school districts, including the West Contra Costa Unified. In addition, the Chevron Richmond Refinery in partnership with the Richmond Community Foundation is supporting an effort to create 1,000 face shields for local healthcare practitioners at the Fab Lab at Kennedy High.

Facebook stepped up by donating 350,000 medical gloves to Contra Costa healthcare workers. Meanwhile, Travis Credit Union (TCU) committed $1 million to support 96 nonprofits in five counties, including Contra Costa, to support impacted local businesses.

In a separate effort, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, owned and established by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, supported the launch of the Contra Costa COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund, a fundraising effort to support nonprofits providing food, financial, shelter and other critical services in the community. The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is among the initial recipients of the Fund.

Members of the California Air National Guard help set up a 255-bed medical field hospital at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (Photo credit: Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia’s Office)

San Leandro-based Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling recently delivered 32 cases of Coca-Cola’s new energy drink to Richmond police officers and dispatchers. The frontline workers have also been fed by local eateries that have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, such as Café Soleil in El Sobrante, which provided food and rounded up thousands of personal protection equipment for healthcare providers, police officers and firefighters.

Cassie Cushing, owner of Point Richmond’s Kaleidoscope Coffee, has been delivering customer-bought coffee to Kaiser Richmond employees. Those healthcare workers were also recently treated to CJ’s Barbecue & Fish with help from the community organization, Soulful Softball Sunday.

Soulful Softball Sunday is also credited with mobilizing volunteers to expand West Contra Costa Unified School District food distribution sites to ensure students have access to nutritional meals while schools are closed. In that effort, dozens of WCCUSD staff members and volunteers have slipped on masks and gloves every weekday at 17 distributions sites to pass out tens of thousands of meals.  Other organizations in Richmond like CoBiz have also stepped up to support food distribution to the community, hosting a grocery giveaway at its downtown location. Also providing free meals are Bridge Storage and Art Space’s Commissary Kitchen, San Pablo Billiard & Restaurant and McDonald’s, which is offering one free meal per day to frontline workers. The Fresh Approach mobile farmers market, meanwhile, continues rolling into undeserved areas and is offering 50 percent discounts to customers.

During WWII, the Ford Assembly Plant transitioned from making civilian cars to military vehicles to support the WII effort. Today, Richmond’s Falcon Spirits Distillery halted its production of gin, amaro and brandy to make hand sanitizer for first responders.

And while small businesses are stepping up to support the community, others are stepping up to support them. The Richmond Chamber of Commerce has been updating and disseminating a guide of local eateries offering takeout and delivery during the shelter-in-place order, boosting their sales. The Chamber has also been connecting businesses to a bevy of local, state and national relief resources. Richmond Main Street Initiative has done this as well, and its partnership with Leftside Printing is distributing “open for business” signs to help draw customers.

Despite uncertainty, local small businesses step up for first responders
Members of the Richmond (left) and San Pablo (right) police departments are grateful for contributions of food and supplies from struggling local businesses. (Photo courtesy of both police departments)

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia has been among the community’s most active during the pandemic and a source of frequent, reliable information. In his email newsletter, Gioia described feeling heartened by the community’s outpouring of help and volunteerism. Gioia shined a light on local nonprofits doing much of the important work on the frontlines, and who need support as well.

Per Gioia, click here to see Contra Costa Employment and Human Services Department’s (EHSD) rundown of community partners that can use help right now. LifeLong Medical Care, Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, and SparkPoint are among them.

GRIP (Greater Richmond Interfaith Program), providing services to the homeless and others in need, and the Ed Fund West, assisting low-income local students and their families, are among services not on the list that could also use support as they serve the community’s most vulnerable residents.

“Let’s channel our spirit and support to maximize our strength, Gioia said in the April 13 eUpdate. “There are many great nonprofit community organizations serving our most vulnerable residents.”

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, pictured here assisting the set up of a field hospital at Craneway Pavilion, has been among the community’s most active during the pandemic and a source of frequent, reliable information. (Photo credit: Gioia’s Office)