by Justin Kamimoto
During the holidays I can’t help but think about the aroma of food coming from the kitchen and loved ones filling the house reminiscing of wonderful memories the year held. Most people know this joy, and relish it every year. However, some people don’t get to.
Looking at census data, 23.4% of Fresno County live under the poverty line. It hurts even more that during a recent trip to the grocery store, a women behind me in line made degrading remarks of the man paying for groceries with food stamps. When leaving the store, that man met with his family outside the store, embarrassed by the comments the woman made. What’s his story? Both he and his wife lost their jobs that resulted in the foreclosure of their home. They now live in a small one bedroom apartment, but are happy to have each other and basic essentials to get by. Together both were thankful for what they had, even if it wasn’t as much as before.
Learning the census facts and having the encounter with that mans family left my heart strings being tugged on.
Community: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location
Looking at the definition of community above, there are two words that stick out to me: interacting individuals. As an advocate myself, I’m always thinking of new ways for people to come together and serve our community. This holiday season it’s through Fresno’s M.E.A.L. (Meals Engaging All Lives).
Fresno’s M.E.A.L. is not a project and it’s certainly not a warm and fuzzy cause. It’s a grassroots community organizing effort to feed people in OUR community who need assistance in Downtown Fresno, the Tower District and Woodward Park.
The concept of Fresno’s M.E.A.L. is based on a simple thought: with the community, for the community. Started out as an event on my Facebook page to encourage friends and family to give back during the holidays, the idea quickly grew as more people joined in saying they wanted to help. Now stop and think about the definition of community again and then put into perspective that on November 23, individuals are going to be giving up their Saturday to prepare meals for homeless individuals for our three service areas.
Fresno’s M.E.A.L. will officially kick off at 9 a.m. on November 23 as I open up my families home in Northeast Clovis to begin cooking and preparing meals with the 20+ volunteers signed up to give back. Together, we will be cooking all the holiday fixings: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, corn, rolls, cranberry sauce and a holiday dessert.
In addition to meals, we will be assembling care packages containing items such as shampoos, conditioners, bar soaps, non-perishable snacks and a water bottle. Afterwards, volunteers and I will travel in groups to give meals and care packages directly to a people offering a smile and a “Happy Holidays. Have a great day.” In the end, Fresno’s M.E.A.L. will bring together people for a cause that directly impacts the lives of others.
Here is how Barbara Beauchamp, a volunteer and donor, of Fresno’s M.E.A.L. sees our act: “I feel this community effort is extremely important, not just for the people who are on the receiving end, but for the individuals who take a role in making the community they live in stronger. People who give to the community tend to develop a deeper connection and sense of belonging of pride and ownership in areas they live in.”
Fresno’s M.E.A.L. wouldn’t be possible without the amazing individual and business donors who have donated thus far. Local businesses such as the Painted Table and Caroline’s Creations are donating food products and the TownePlace Suites Fresno and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Clovis are donating items to fill our care packages.
For more information, sign up to volunteer or make a donation, please contact Justin Kamimoto at 408.857.3524 or justinkamimoto@gmail[dot]com or visit www.fresnosmeal.com.