Community Voices
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(photo: John Mattera Photography)

The last five months have been hard. In fact, this just might be the most isolating and difficult season some of us have ever experienced. For many, COVID-19 has brought us to our knees. While mourning the loss of family and friends, we yearn for the day we can hug our grandchildren and neighbors. We have lost our sense of “normal.” As a pastor and woman of faith, I believe that the rent we pay for our time on this earth is service. Service to everyone, no matter where they are in life. For many in our community, March of 2020 marked the time when some local families experienced hardship that many of us have been spared. First-time food shortage. The inability to pay rent. A struggle to avoid basic needs unlike ever before. 

How we respond to challenging times like these define who we are as humans. We can choose to look those struggling in the eyes, or we can go about our day. It’s a choice we make every day.

Our neighbors are struggling. Their struggle is our call to action. A few in our community heard that plea and created The Harbor Neighborhood Relief Fund (HNRF) in March to support our most vulnerable individuals and families in Wilmington, Harbor City and San Pedro — those who are most impacted by the pandemic. And in early March, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce Quality of Life Committee and the San Pedro Faith Consortium gathered to see how we could work together to make this fund a reality and respond to the greatest needs in our community — and quickly! 

Our neighbors are powerful. This fund was formed by our community for our community. Thus far, we have given grants to 80 local families and individuals and three nonprofits. Families have used these funds for food, gas, medicine, support for children with special needs, and basic necessities to keep themselves afloat and safe at this time. We also connect folks to local resources like food pantries, rental assistance, and mental health support. This fund seeks to leverage the already-robust services we have in the Harbor area — and fill in gaps, as needed. 

Our neighbors are grateful. Each week, we read often-heartbreaking applications. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 and cannot work or leave their homes to buy food; folks who are one month away from homelessness; parents of kids with special needs who are trying to just make it through the day. Each week, we safely deliver gift cards and resources to these neighbors in need. They are overwhelmed by the generosity of their own community. They’ve never experienced anything like this before.

“I washed my clothes for my children and myself, I got gas and a little food while I am waiting for assistance with unemployment. We are thankful.” – grant recipient.

Our neighbors need us. Applications have rolled in each week — and with increasing needs and severity. For us to sustain this level of support for those most in need, we need you. I’m asking you to open your eyes and see what you can give.

“The grant was a tremendous help for my family and me. I took my son to speech therapy thanks to the gas money. I bought some healthier food choices and activities to help our mental health.” – grant recipient.

This is your neighborhood. We are a connected community that cares for each other. You can make a difference. 

Our neighbors are resilient. But, even in quarantine, we aren’t meant to do hard things alone. 

Every dollar donated goes directly to our neighbors most in need. By leveraging the expertise of local leaders, Feed and Be Fed and the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, the HNRF has no administrative costs. I’m so honored to chair this effort and be supported by executive committee members: Amber Sheikh Ginsberg (Harbor APC Commissioner and community activist), Amy Grat (CEO of EXP), Jamie Moore (assistant chief, LAFD), Amanda Adams Riley (co-pastor of The Garden Church), Peter Rothe (chairman of Feed and Be Fed), and Lee Williams (chairman, San Pedro Chamber of Commerce). spt

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Pastor Lisa Williams

Pastor Lisa William is the pastor at San Pedro United Methodist Church.