Saturday, December 20, 2008

West Side Food Bank - The String Theory Of Community Organizing..........

It started with yarn. A lot of little balls of colored yarn.

Last week, a lot of us in the Southern California Obama campaign gathered for the first time since the election for the mega "Change is Coming" event at LA Trade Tech because we wanted to learn what we could do next.

As one of the team building exercises, the organizers had someone at each table grab a ball of yarn and string it to another table across the room to someone else they had met through the campaign. Soon the room was a tangle of blue, yellow, green and orange strings. It's the picture you see at the top of this page.

At the end of the meeting, we were all asked to adopt a local food bank. Our group in the northern part of CD36 settled on the Westside Food Bank, those in the southbay and the harbor area adopted The Food Bank of Southern California, His Helping Hand Food Pantry in Lomita and Harbor Interfaith Services in San Pedro. Between the two groups, by reaching out to our Obama networks, our neighbors, Facebook, and Community Organize (a new networking site developed by the leadership of the California Obama campaign), we collected nearly 5,000 lbs - 2.5 TONS - over 8,000 pounds - FOUR TONS - of food, blankets and toiletries, donated a thousand dollars, and recruited dozens of volunteers to sort and box the proceeds.

To get an idea of what this new interconnectivity means, check out these comments from some of the organizers:

Jill Gilligan (Redondo Beach)
Hi - I just left the Sprint collection site in South Torrance after helping Linda Greene and the Mira Costa team unload their haul. I had already brought in 4 bins and nother zillion bags of food from my two sites, and Linda had even more than I. I was in tears. I feel like I have known Linda my whole life and we just met in person half an hour ago. Thanks to the kids from Mira's Young Dems, my kids, my friends, and all of the Fighting 36th. It was a great experience.

Linda Green (Manhattan Beach)
My thoughts exactly, Jill! What was a good idea turned into a great success in no small part to the awesome volunteers and incredible generosity of our communities. Really enloyed workig with Jill (Redondo Beach) and Robert (Harbor/San Pedro) and happy to say our teams were able to collect 4,255 lbs. of food and personal care products today! SPECIAL THANKS to the awesome volunteers including Mira Costa High School's "Young Dems Club" and their prez Sam Hein who rallied the troops and worked with a huge smile all day. And to the S-Club members at Mira Costa who manned the tables and collected food donations! Congratulations to our CD36North team and good luck to the other food drives taking place this weekend. YES WE CAN...AGAIN!!

Robert Brandin (San Pedro)
Hello Everyone,This is the report for CD36Harbor. It is a beautiful day here in San Pedro. This morning the team went to our adopted food bank to check on things. We were delighted to see their Christmas party was going on. There were hundreds of people with their families enjoying the sunshine, the services and activities provided by the good souls at our adopted food bank, Harbor Interfaith Services (

Both their facilities were in full swing. The food pantry on 9th St.served more than 200 families. They left with groceries, most with a turkey, some toys, and a peppermint stick for the kids (the average age of their clients is 6yrs). On 10th St, at the homeless shelter for abused women with children; it was a block party. Janice Hahn arranged for the permit to block off the street for the first time ever. Here there was games for the kids (jumper and all). The tables and chairs began filling up for the big meal to come. Very cool.

The team managed to collect about 750 pounds of food, blankets, and things babies' need. We used our lists from the campaign. First we "refined" the lists, called, then followed up with an email. It worked well. San Pedro High School seniors, from Mrs. Karin Bruhnke's government classes (many of whom worked our phone banks) collected 250 pounds for us.

For me, the best thing was not so much the supplies we were able to donate, it was the experience of doing it. Working with folks like Tahia Hayslet, the benevolent and caring executive director, or Shirley , her right hand, to all the others who took the time to care enough to do something for someone less fortunate. These contacts are valuable assets . Again it is proven to me that engaged people, working together ignites the desire to get involved and take action. This is good.

So what's next? I vote for something that has immediate impact. Something enduring. Any ideas?

On the Community Organize site, there are a dozen other food banks happening today all over Los Angeles and California. I can't wait to hear how their day went.

And lastly, that site's membership has gone from less than 50 to just shy of eight hundred.

In a week. A week

Welcome to the "string theory" of community organizing.

For more photos of today's food bank sorting party, go here and here

To learn more about the Westside Food Bank, go here.

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