First 5 LA's Five Reasons to Feel Good About 2020:
Stories of Connection, Compassion and Community
This past September when the Census deadline was quickly approaching, Best Start community leaders came together in a Census caravan to deliver an important message about why every person counts in the Census and how it impacts funding in their communities. Their successful efforts exemplified the role that trust in the messenger plays when it comes to delivering news about community advocacy and participation.
This year’s pandemic and the economic crisis have affected people’s voluntary participation in the census, said Nancy Gomez, a Best Start Wilmington member who was part of the East L.A. caravan. “People aren’t paying attention to it. Everyone’s focus is on surviving,” she said. ‘It’s made our mission three times as hard.” However, she noted that many people would do it when urged and if help was provided.
“The fact that community members are urging their neighbors to fill out the census goes a long way in establishing trust so that people feel comfortable in answering the questions, Mooney said. “It’s not professional census takers doing this — it’s their neighbors,” she said. “I think that encourages people.”
2. A Heartfelt Tale of Providing Child Care for Essential Workers
When the pandemic hit in March, essential workers like Kirstie and Elgin Basal-De La Cruz faced a major issue finding care for their kids while they provided essential services for their communities. First 5 LA, along with its partners in the Early Care and Education COVID-19 Response Team, were able to help the two parents find care through the creation of an interactive map that connected essentials workers who had emergency child care vouchers from the State with child care when they needed it the most.
Advocacy by the California Early Care and Education Coalition, First 5 LA and many other partners helped secure $50 million (statewide total) from the state for emergency vouchers to assist essential workers like Kirstie and Elgin in paying for child care. Essential workers can access these vouchers through resource and referral agencies like Options for Learning.
“It’s great. Really great,” Kirstie says. “I breathed a sigh of relief that we don’t have to dwindle down our savings. I know that the girls are well cared for and I can still go to work.”
3. Virtual Home Visiting In Action: An Inside Look
Home visitors have been crucial during the pandemic as they quickly pivoted to support families while still following COVID-19 protocols. First 5 LA Writer/Editor Jeff Schnaufer provides an inside look into how strong the connection between a home visitor and their client can be — especially during difficult times like a pandemic — in this story where he virtually shadows mother-of-three, Jacqueline Cortez-Paz’s visits with her home visitor, Perla Montenegro.
Perla: Is there anything you’ve noticed Daisy has been really interested in lately?
Jacqueline: She’s starting to like arts and crafts, like her big sister.
Perla: That’s really cool. Because in the first three years of their life, her brain will have more growth than any time of her life. And right now, she is probably going through what they call an open window, where her brain is just ready to absorb and learn and make connections. That’s when you see them very interested in one thing or repeating a lot of things, like going up and down the stairs. So it’s really cool that you notice what she is interested in.
4. First 5 LA Helps Get Food on the Road to L.A. County Families
There’s no question that COVID-19 has complicated necessary errands like supermarket trips for almost everyone. But for many low-income communities, grocery shopping is now not just complicated — it’s a real problem. That’s why First 5 LA stepped into its role as a convener during the pandemic to connect LA Metro, which operates public transportation in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, with Para Los Niños, a nonprofit that supports First 5 LA’s community capacity and network initiative known as Best Start in the Central Los Angeles area. Working together, the two organizations launched an innovative free program that delivers food and essentials such as diapers directly to the homes of low-income families.
Many vulnerable families live in “food deserts” and must travel a distance to supermarkets that offer lower prices than neighborhood corner stores. Those who live in those communities and don’t own cars normally rely on buses and trains to go shopping. But they’re now fearful of using public transportation due to the risk of exposure to the highly contagious coronavirus. Many have also lost jobs and childcare, further complicating their dilemma.
“We heard story after story of the extreme hardships that families who don’t have reliable transportation have to go through to try to access food,” said Brenda Aguilera, director of community transformation for Para los Niños.
In April at the height of pandemic resource-hoarding, families were having trouble finding basic necessities like diapers. To help solve this problem, First 5 LA leveraged its network of partners to coordinate and deliver 50,000 diaper packages to families with young children, showing the vital role strong networks play when it comes to finding solutions for helping L.A. County’s families and kids.
First 5 LA staff said they couldn’t have done it alone. “It was a lot of helping hands from connections that we hadn’t made before,” said First 5 LA Senior Program Officer Diana Careaga-Durden.
The effort shows the importance of networking, especially in a sprawling county like Los Angeles, which encompasses 88 cities over 5,000 square miles, noted Ellah Ronen, a program officer for LA n Sync. “It’s amazing the number of things that can happen when you leverage connections.”
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