MLK commUNITY Initiative gave away more than 1,000 surgical masks Monday morning in southeast Bakersfield.

The masks were donated by Fred Prince, owner of Omega Insurance, and Curtis Floyd, owner of a local law firm.

Arleana Waller, founder of the MLK commUNITY Initiative, said the giveaway went very well, with about 350 people showing up.

“I think it's critically important that we were able to have conversations with some people (in our community) to help them understand the importance of wearing a mask to protect themselves and their neighbors,” Waller said.

Waller said that it is unknown just how much southeast Bakersfield has been impacted by COVID-19.

“We don’t see a lot of support out in the southeast area in terms of supplies and education (regarding PPE),” Waller said. “I felt it was important to be proactive.”

Waller said the community has a high Hispanic and African-American population and pointed to data both locally and nationally that those populations have been impacted greatly by COVID-19. As previously reported, Hispanics made up the majority of coronavirus cases locally at just over 66 percent as of May 4, according to the Kern County Public Health Services Department.

Waller said multiple masks were given to each person to make sure they would have enough for themselves and their families. Ultimately, the initiative ran out of masks and is in need of more for future giveaways.

“Rain or shine, we know it's important to support the community,” Waller said. “The MLK commUNITY Initiative only exists because of all of our community partners and volunteers that show up each month.”

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