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#NeighborhoodHeroes: Martha’s Village and Kitchen

Martha’s Village & Kitchen is one of the largest providers of homeless services in the Coachella Valley and Riverside County. During the coronavirus pandemic, they have seen an uptake in the needs of services. These essential employees are working hard to provide for those in need throughout the community.

Larissa Kerstetter, the director of philanthropy for Martha's Village & Kitchen said, "Working at Martha's, it’s a passion. You have to be empathetic to those in unfortunate circumstances." Martha's Village & Kitchen staff remains on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic to serve the community.

From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. they offer emergency food assistance. Erika Rubio, receptionist intake for Martha's Village & Kitchen said, "We help either the low income and also our homeless community with food to take home." They are feeding those that live on-site along with lunch for the public that begins at 11 a.m. every weekday. Anthony Valasquez, the kitchen supervisor for Martha's Village & Kitchen, said that they have been making more meals for the public than normal. Velasquez said that the public meals have doubled since the pandemic. They are making between 180-250 meals a day. Kerstetter added, "There are a lot of people that have been laid off, impacted, we are seeing a lot of first-time clients." There is more of a need for their services during this time with less help on the frontlines.

Emergency food assistance pantry at Martha's Village & Kitchen

Roger Meier, the volunteer outreach coordinator for Martha's Village & Kitchen, said, "We have temporarily suspended our onsite volunteer ship. Just so we can make sure that everyone is safe and take the necessary safety precautions." Kerstetter added, "We have hundreds of volunteers that come every year to Martha's, which equates to tens of thousands of hours a year. Not having those resources available to us has been proven to be very challenging."

Distributing lunch to the public from 11 - 11:45 a.m. at Martha's Village & Kitchen

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Even without volunteers onsite, there are still other ways the public can help while maintaining social distancing. Meier said, "We do need canned goods, pop tops specifically. We have a lot of public clients that don’t have access to can openers." Along with non-perishable food items, they are also in need of more baby products like diapers, wipes, and formula. Meier added, "We just had a hygiene and camp food drive done by one of our volunteers who came in and brought us a truckload of hygiene kits to use in our shower program. So there’s a bunch of different ways that you can get involved, based on how creative you want to get. Virtual food drives, facebook fundraisers." They are also working on their yearly fundraiser. Meier told us, “One of the projects we have right now is for our biggest events, our 5k. So every year we sell our famous tutus at our 5k. So it’s a fun project for the kids, as well as the adults to get crafty and put together tutu’s for us.”

If you want to volunteer, set up a drive, or donate, you can give Martha's Village & Kitchen a call at 760-347-4741, or reach out via email at info@marthasvillage.org. Just let them know your name, location, and when they could expect delivery.

The entire staff is appreciative of one another. Meier said, "During this time, there’s been a lot of changes but I feel like everybody in each department has stepped up and done their part.” Rubio said, "It’s the satisfaction that you’re doing something for somebody else." Velasquez added, "For me and my staff, you know, we make things happen. And we’re just glad to be able to do our part in this time of need."

Celebrating #NeighborhoodHeroes

While the coronavirus crisis is keeping us apart, we know the Coachella Valley community is still coming together to help each other. We are looking for those who are lending a hand during this uncertain time. Do you know of any everyday people who are going out of their way to help others? Have you seen someone find creative solutions to the new challenges we all face?

News Channel 3 wants to celebrate these neighborhood heroes. Tell us about them here. Enter HERE or email SHARE@kesq.com. If you see good happening on social media, share it with us, and tag it #neighborhoodheroes for us to see.

We are all in this together. Help us showcase the good that's happening right here in the Coachella Valley.

Kaiser recommends that those in the Coachella Valley who are elderly and have underlying health conditions, including individuals who are HIV positive, limit non-essential travel and avoid large public gatherings.

Health officials said anyone who thinks they might be experiencing symptoms of the virus and want to be seen at Eisenhower Health should call the hospital hotline first at 760-837-8988. Avoid the spread of this illness.
Residents with further questions can call 2-1-1 and 800–CDC –INFO (800 – 232 – 4636) with any questions.

Public health recommendations for all Riverside County residents during community spread:

Practice social distancing, which is remaining out of places where people meet or gather and avoid using public transportation, if possible.
Do not attend work, school or events when sick. Stay home.
Cough into your elbow or tissue.
Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer often.
Stay away from anyone who is sick.

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Taban Sharifi

Taban Sharifi is a Meteorologist and Reporter with KESQ News Channel 3, The Desert’s News & Weather Leader. Learn more about Taban here.

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