Local nonprofit assists nearly 5,000 local residents
Every Friday afternoon, between eight and 20 volunteers with Resilience Institute Santa Barbara take a weight off the shoulders of up to 300 local families.
Since April, in conjunction with the Apostolic Assembly Church at 2035 Bath St., the nonprofit has held a free curbside food pantry in front of the church to assist locals struggling economically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past two weeks, 300 new families have received assistance from the food pantry since other local pantries have had to cut their hours down.
Resilience Institute isn’t associated with a food bank and doesn’t receive any corporate money. Instead, it holds fundraisers to buy food from the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
From 2 to 5 p.m. every Friday, recipients pull up to the curb in their vehicles with their trunks open and volunteers place two boxes in their trunk, one box with dairy products such as eggs, milk and cheese, and meat, and the other box with breads, cold cuts and fresh vegetables.
In addition, the county food bank gives leftover cakes and cupcakes to volunteers, who then set them aside for any recipients’ birthdays they’re aware of.
Jacqueline Inda is the founder of Resilience Institute Santa Barbara and runs the whole operation. She said that residents who come to the food bank don’t only come for the fresh produce.
She told the News-Press that Resilience Institute received money from the Bower Foundation to help people with their utility bills, especially families with children learning remotely.
“A lot of the folks in this neighborhood are not used to asking for help or coming by to get help, so they appreciate the fact that it’s completely confidential and they don’t have to give out any records,” Ms. Inda said. “We know it’s only going to get more and more challenging. The focus goes on national news and counting votes rather than helping those who really need it.”
Before COVID-19, the nonprofit worked to lower recidivism in the region, holding domestic violence classes, anger management and intervention programs and working with the Mexican Consulate to help families through the immigration process.
The organization would also take government vehicles to the consulate to provide clothing and blankets to children in border facilities.
Now, along with providing food and helping with utilities, Resilience Institute helps local residents apply for grants and assistance from the government, and has a stock of 10,000 face masks that they hand out to food recipients.
“It’s a sensitive subject because most of the people who come to our pantry are not used to going to food pantries,” Ms. Inda continued. “They have told us, ‘We’re not going to apply for CalWORKs or CalFresh. We’ve never done that and we’re never going to do that.’
“I don’t know if it’s a pride thing or if they’ve always felt that instinct to provide for their own families. We just want to help people do what they need to for their families to help them survive.”
On Friday, Gina Catalan, one of the volunteers, was taking down the names and needs of dozens of recipients in the parking lot of the Santa Barbara City College School of Extended Learning across the street from the church.
Ms. Catalan attends Apostolic Assembly Church, which is partly why she volunteers.
“It’s giving support to my church and helping other families in the community which I like to do,” she told the News-Press. “It (fresh food) is really expensive, so it’s a big help for all of us to keep eating healthy for our immune system so we don’t get sick. And with all the unemployment, it’s important for all of us.”
She started volunteering in April, right when the program began.
“I like seeing their smiles knowing that I am helping them out,” Ms. Catalan said. “I’d like to help them cook but I can’t do that, so at least I can help get them the ingredients.”
To learn more about the food pantry, contact the Resilience Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.