Hunger is growing. California parents are struggling to feed their families, and food banks are experiencing a dramatic increase in demand. With no end to the pandemic in sight and permanent job loss numbers on the rise, an increasing amount of families are going hungry. According to the July 2, 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, over 40.0 million Americans have lost their jobs since March 2020. Moreover, an analysis by The Hamilton Project surmised that by the end of April 2020, more than 1 in 5 households in the United States, and 2 in 5 households with children age 12 and younger, were food insecure. Many American families are newly hungry, and in some communities, lines at food banks extend for several miles.
One organization in Southern California is making a difference in one of the hardest hit areas in Los Angeles, Watts. Children Mending Hearts, a non-profit organization founded in 2008 by filmmaker, Lysa Heslov, was created to inspire future generations of compassionate and socially conscious citizens who will change a culture of bullying into one of empathy and action.
In March 2020, Heslov implemented an immediate community call to action by executing a social media campaign #SEPARATETOGETHER. The #SeparateTogether campaign is described as an “emphatic response to meet community needs” and includes weekly deliveries to community centers by providing food (including prepared meals), clothing and other resources (including face masks) to the needy, disabled and homeless population. Heslov stated, “We have been able to feed and clothe around 2,300 families per week.”
“The public support has been overwhelming. One thing I’ve learned from this COVID crisis is that there is nothing stronger or more powerful than humanity, kindness, and giving. Our volunteers risk their lives every week to help the Watts community. I’ve never seen anything like it. I weep every week, knowing how many badass people there are in the world. It’s not me, it’s a tribe,” Heslov explained.
Supporters include Heslov’s husband Grant Heslov (Academy Award® winning producer for Argo), Maria Bello, Ben Affleck, Irene Medavoy, Sugar Ray Leonard, Isla Fisher, Andy Cohen, Jennifer Flavin Stallone, and Rachel Roy, among many others.
Children Mending Hearts is able to provide food and clothing for an
average of 2,300 families per week, Photos courtesy of Lysa Heslov
For more information on how to help, visit Children Mending Hearts. Heslov indicated the campaign is in need of monetary donations, as well as gently used clothing, fruit, toiletries, and, particularly, diapers.
Children Mending Hearts is also offering resources for children. #ICHOOSEEMPATHY was established to offer free virtual story time and art classes as many children are having difficulty coping with their young lives being turned upside-down. During this time of schools and summer camps being closed, Children Mending Hearts has put together a free resource website, I Choose Empathy, which is filled with art projects, games, reading guides, videos, acts of kindness, quotes, and research to make sure that teachers, children, and parents can engage with empathy and compassion in a fun, thought-provoking way. As part of the initiative, the resource site offers free twice-weekly 40 min LIVE Zoom classes for grade school students across the country and beyond. In each class, a book is read, the children discuss the book, and then the students do an easy, accessible art project that ties it all together. These classes promote social-emotional learning, to help spread empathy and help kids process complex feelings.