Westside Family Fellowship, in partnership with CAPK (Community Action Partnership of Kern) and The Wonderful Company, hosted a free food drive for over 250 families on Feb. 24.
Although each family had their own unique story as to why they needed the extra help, they all had one thing in common; that it is getting harder and harder to survive in these difficult times.
"We are here because we need food," said Dolores Pineda. "Prices have gone up so much it has been hard to keep up. Rent, gas and all of our other bills keep getting more expensive. We are seniors on a fixed, low-income budget; it's just not enough."
"Our event meets the needs of the people," Organizer and Westside Family Fellowship Pastor Johnny Martinez said. "It is special because we connect with the community and fill an economic void. We serve those that are living from check to check."
Martinez said the food drive is all about service and unity.
"Our community is hurting, and together I believe we are making a big difference. It is the aim of our church to nourish them both physically and spiritually," he said.
"With their donation, we save money which helps us pay all of our monthly expenses. I have been coming to the food drive for the last seven months, and we have really benefited from the kindness of Westside Family Fellowship and the other sponsors," said Rosa Castro.
Recipients said they appreciated the event since the economy has slowed.
"I am a farm laborer, and the economy is so slow there is just no work for many of us," said Samuel Soto. "With my seasonal employment, it has been tough to stay afloat financially. Even when I do work, it's hard to make ends meet on minimum wage."
Families in their cars were lined up along Palm Avenue.
"I waited 30 minutes, but it was worth it. They only asked for our name, address, and number in our household. It was easy, and I didn't have to show any documentation," said Wendy Mendez.
Sylvia Garcia said the event helps feed her family of seven.
"This supports my mother, father, brother, husband, and three kids. I don't work because I take care of my children and my father, who has dementia," Garcia said.
Marcia Alcanta said the event helps supplement her budget.
"We came here for the fresh fruits, vegetables, and canned goods. This supplements our monthly budget, and we can stretch out our money to pay for other living expenses. We have a tremendous need, and we appreciate the assistance the church provides," said Alcanta.
"Each time, the event is bigger and bigger. We have families coming from Wasco, Shafter, Delano, and even Bakersfield," said organizer Sukie Martinez.
Magdi Istafanos is one of those that commuted from Bakersfield.
"No one except me is working in my family. Even though I am about to start dialysis and am waiting for a kidney transplant, I have no option but to work. Their aid really makes an important impact," said Istafanos.
The event was a team effort with over 30 volunteers turning up to make it a success.
"For me, it is a blessing to be of service. This is my sixth time as a volunteer. I believe it shows the love of God," said Richard Herrera.
For information on when the next free food drive will be held contact Pastor Martinez at 661-301-5979.