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MLK CommUNITY Initiative marks one year with monthly food giveaway

The MLK CommUNITY Initiative celebrated its one-year anniversary by living out its essence: continuing to support southeast Bakersfield.

On Monday, the initiative held its monthly free food giveaway to support many residents experiencing tough times as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This giveaway featured live music and a chance to recognize community volunteers that have made the efforts a reality over the past year, according to founder Arleana Waller.

“A lot of (the southeast community) are essential workers and if you have a very limited income coming in, you have to make very tough decisions,” Waller said. “(The giveaways make) a very big deal in their house.

“We had people come and say they didn’t know what they were going to do because they ran out of food.”

Three hundred boxes of food were given away on Monday at the MLK Initiative Distribution Center, 1116 E. California Ave. The boxes featured essential items such as dry goods, beans, fruit, eggs, meat, cheese, eggs, flour and coffee, Waller explained.

Ora Frink, the initiative’s director of volunteers and community affairs, said Monday’s giveaway left her feeling just as “great” as any of their others during recent months of the pandemic.

“People are losing jobs, income or having income delayed,” Frink said. “Having these distributions and passing out foods and filling gaps in homes is a tremendous amount of help.”

The giveaways occur the third Monday of each month to assist people with “any need” and provide them with a full grocery basket worth of food, Frink said. She added that there are no qualifying standards in place to partake in the event.

“If you’re in need, you instantly qualify. We are here to provide,” Frink said. “We focus on our seniors, less fortunate and homeless.”

She explained that the food typically goes pretty fast. The giveaways usually begin at around 9 a.m. and oftentimes everything is distributed by 11 a.m., Frink said. However, she added distributors stay at the East California Avenue facility until all of the food is gone.

Frink explained how grateful the community has been for their efforts, and that the gratitude is usually reciprocated through volunteer work.

“They might come Monday and get food and the following Monday they might come back and say ‘What can I do to help?’” Frink said. “They’re not just taking, they’re taking and giving back. They’re learning that it takes a full community to help this go nice and smoothly.”

The initiative also holds weekly giveaways on Wednesdays during which it hands out hot meals, other food items and protein boxes.