A group known for its own generous service to the community presented giant checks, perfect for a photo-op, to three deserving organizations Wednesday, July 8.
Ed Donnelly, the founder of Dads Uniting Dads in Education & Service, better known as simply the D.U.D.E.S. to South Pasadena residents, was busy singing the praises of those who continue to give back.
On this occasion, during a brief morning ceremony, they donated $1,000 checks to:
• Holy Family Church Food Bank, operated by Marlene Moore, director of community services.
• Senior Citizens Foundation of South Pasadena headed up by Bill Cullinane, Alexandria Levitt, and Jonathan Primuth
• St. James Episcopal Church: Rev. Gethin Wied on behalf of its Community Food Locker, which provides approximately 50 bags of food to those in need every Friday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
All three organizations were instrumental in supporting a grassroots organization established by the D.U.D.E.S – South Pasadena Volunteer Grocery Shoppers – a team of workers who have been busy since the COVID-19 crisis picking up groceries for seniors families and immune-compromised individuals, carrying the motto: “You Buy, We Deliver.”
A major force behind it has been community member Andrew Berk, who helped put the wheels in motion. “A few of us who are regularly engaged in the community recognized early on that there were many neighbors (both businesses and individuals) who were in need of not being addressed and served, and that the needs would likely intensify as the situation continued surrounding Covid-19 rapidly and significantly devolved with the stay at home orders,” explained Berk when the effort was initially launched.
“In the middle of March, we brainstormed to see where we could quickly put a plan in place to address the need for food and groceries to get to folks in their homes. Traditionally many of them were not relying on outside help that would now be needed. Sitting on the board of directors for the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, I had some initial conversations with our president, Laurie Wheeler, where we started to address and came up with ideas to reach out and help our local businesses, including our retail and restaurants to stay informed, stay open, and remain stable on the business side. The conversation shifted to other areas where the needs of our community were not, or were possibly not, going to be met.”
On Wednesday, he said at the outbreak of COVID-19, he and others were trying to decide what the immediate needs were in the community “and we realized that seniors being compromised shouldn’t be going out to the supermarkets and out into the community, and to keep them safe and the community safe. In speaking with Laurie Wheeler, Ed Donnelly’s name came up, of course, and when I placed a called to Ed he said he was putting something together. We put a quick team together to figure out the challenges and hurdles we needed to get through. We thought something together in a matter of 48 hours and had it online and running.”
Berk and proven community leaders like Donnelly and the D.U.D.E.S. helped to make the delivery program for the elderly an overwhelming success. “What we were finding is that the seniors and those most at risk and who were not using the more traditional social and in place community programs out there set up for others in their demographic,” explained Berk. “When I visited a senior 90+ year-old neighbor of mine, I was reminded how extremely independent they were, and that they were not being communicated to strongly enough as to the options for getting groceries coupled with the risk associated with them going to very public places. So our goal was to try and reach those people by keeping them in their homes and safer.”
Donnelly, who launched the D.U.D.E.S. in 2012 with five other South Pasadenans, told the gathering on Wednesday, “The thing we think we can do help the most is to make sure the vulnerable people of South Pasadena were able to get food and prescriptions.”
Within 48 hours of its launch, a volunteer army was in place willing to go out, go shopping and deliver food for free to residents. Those willing to help signed up through a portal created by the D.U.D.E.S. and soon individuals were able to make requests for delivery, track orders and make money transactions.
“Without that infrastructure this program would never have worked,” noted Donnelly, who added that some magic happened following the first 48 hours of the program’s start. “More than 160 people signed up to deliver food to their neighbors and take time out of their lives to help.”
And, unexpectedly, donations started rolling in big time. “Lots and lots and lots of donations,” said Donnelly told the crowd Wednesday before recognizing the three honored groups receiving financial assistance from the D.U.D.E.S, an organization that harnesses the energy and enthusiasm of local dads to help other groups in the community including the PTA, SPMS Boosters, the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee, the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation and more. For nearly 8 years the group has supported numerous South Pasadena endeavors.
“What a spirit of partnership!” enthused Joe, in his acknowledgment from the D.U.D.E.S. to the Senior Citizen Foundation, Holy Family Church Food Bank and St. James Episcopal Church Community Food Locker. “We are so grateful to the them for their kindness and generosity. This is truly a commitment to community.”