On Macdonald Ave. Tuesday, hundreds of “boxes of hope” containing Christmas dinners were handed out to community members in need. Meanwhile on Bissell Ave., families got books along with their frozen turkeys and pies. And over on S. 16th St., donated Christmas dinners came with gift cards.
Such events came at a critical time for community members facing mounting economic hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For years, the Richmond community has fostered a reputation for banding together to support neighbors experiencing difficult times. The city’s residents, businesses, government agencies, schools, nonprofits and religious organizations collaborate annually on charitable giveaways. Efforts amid an unrelenting pandemic, however, have come with a heightened sense of urgency and are being carried out with a particular focus on safe distribution. Leave it to the city of Pride and Purpose to pull it off.
This morning at the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) headquarters at 1108 Bissell, two stations were set up for curbside pickup for local families, one providing age-appropriate books from the Multicultural Children’s Bookstore, and another distributing frozen turkeys and apple and pumpkin pies.
Meanwhile at Independent Community Church at 605 S. 16th St., over 150 families received Christmas dinners and Walmart gift cards curbside as part of the Third Annual Vericool Christmas. Vericool, Rich Minds, and Independent Community Church partnered on the event. Holistic Healing and Green Remedy sponsored the gift cards and other donations came from Live It, Give It Foundation, Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) and WCCUSD. The school district contributed turkeys and GRIP gave food boxes and coats. Vericool, which produces the first fully recyclable and compostable coolers, was founded by Richmond native Darrell Jobe.
One of Richmond’s largest annual holiday charity events — the Boxes of Hope giveaway at the Bay Area Rescue Mission — aimed this year to feed 5,000 neighbors in need. The boxes were distributed this morning from the BARM facility at 123 Macdonald Ave.
“These ‘Boxes of Hope’ will help those forced to make the hard decision of either paying rent, utilities, or putting a traditional Christmas meal on their table,” said Mission Director John Anderson.
Holiday charity efforts have been ongoing and will continue through Christmas Day. Earlier this month, motorcycle clubs rolled into Richmond to deliver toys to a Hilltop hotel that is currently housing people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
Last weekend at LaVonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave., about 500 families in need lined up in their vehicles to pick up gift cards. It was part of the Richmond Fire and Police Holiday Program, an annual effort supported by Richmond Rotary, Chevron, Mechanics Bank, and other individual donors. Initially, organizers were concerned the 31-year-old charity drive would be cancelled due to the pandemic, but they said the need is so great it was important to move forward with a modified version.
And in downtown Richmond Saturday, the coworking space and business incubator CoBiz Richmond partnered with House of Loving Hands to host a toy drive for dozens of local families.
The community giving isn’t over. This coming Thursday, the Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL), 2200 Macdonald Ave., will host the “Richmond Xmas Toy Giveaway,” a drive-thru event giving away 1,000 toys for local youth from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Toys will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis, courtesy of a collaboration between RPAL and The Black Neighborhood, DJ Shellheart, The (Klay) Thompson Family Foundation and The Lacy Community Resources Foundation.
Collaborations such at these have become an essential resource amid the pandemic, said Dr. Raymond Landry, pastor of Independent Community Church. Good news is the infrastructure for charitable partnerships has been established in Richmond for years.
“We have been serving the community like this for 55 years,” Pastor Landry said. “This food giveaway here today is because of partnerships. Vericool, Save-Mart, WCCUSD and others helped to contributing to making this event successful.”
Reporting by Mike Kinney and Kathy Chouteau.