For the last 31 years, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with people who are broken and hurting for many different reasons. Most of them have let their life circumstances keep them from living an intentional life that was intended for them. But I’ve had the opportunity to give some of them hope.
Because of some of my personal struggles growing up, I recognize that a broken state – loss of hope – can lead to desperate pain and poor choices. I had a lot pain in my life because of a broken household. I turned to drugs and alcohol to find joy and fulfillment, which was a downward spiritual and psychological spiral. However, my life turned around so it’s been a blessing for me to bring hope to others so their lives can be different, regardless of their circumstances.
For me, it started with a simple thing called kindness – people showing me loving kindness when I was unlovable.
I am the community development and church engagement director at CityServe. CityServe empowers the local church to reclaim its missional mandate by supplying it with goods in kind and equipping it with training so it can overcome brokenness with compassion and kindness. The people who reached out and helped me in my time of need changed the trajectory of my life. This is the effect we have seen through CityServe.
This all started with a large abandoned building, known to many of us as the old Montgomery Ward building. When it was gifted to us, we didn’t know exactly how we would use it but knew it would be used to serve the community in some way. In collaboration with large national and international nonprofits and national retailer chains, CityServe was born.
Several times a week, CityServe receives shipments of goods in kind from large national retailers that are like-new returned merchandise or considered overproduction goods. We get a plethora of food and household items. These items are distributed to local churches to help hurting people in their neighborhoods. Through CityServe, kindness looks like tangible items of goods in kind that meet real felt needs of people. These needs are met through the local church and Bakersfield has a church in almost every neighborhood.
This structure of giving has been very effective and other local organizations want to be a part of it. We have a partnership with the Kern County Department of Public Health and its Waste Hunger Not Food program. CityServe has also assisted the Department of Human Services, Love Incorporated, Bakersfield City School District, The Dream Center and the Kern Adult Program. Most recently, Dignity Health Mercy and Memorial Hospitals has partnered with CityServe with a lead gift of $25,000.
After only a little over a year, CityServe is now in Fresno, Victorville, San Diego and other cities. National efforts are underway.
We’ve started something here that has never been done before. As we model this for other cities, I personally don’t think there could be a better place for a grassroots effort to be birthed. Bakersfield is filled with people who show kindness in ways that show the heart of who we are.
Be kind in Bakersfield. ￼
Robin Robinson is a Bakersfield native with a deep passion to see Bakersfield be the kindest city in the country. The views expressed are her own.