Being quarantined doesn’t mean you’re alone. We are all in this together, and collectively, we can do anything.
That’s why a group of local women has started the Tehachapi Humanitarian Relief Group Facebook page. Three weeks ago, three woman decided to answer cries for help after local grocery stores were hit hard as the city experienced panic hoarding in response to COVID-19. Today, the three women have been joined by nearly 200 volunteers who have been helping scores of other local folk, many of whom have since been paying it forward.
Justina Engen, Cassandra Wilsted and Nicole Gallella came up with the idea of Humanitarian Relief because they share one thing in common: compassion.
"I came up with the idea and threw it out there on Facebook, and it just turned into something insane. This is a first time I have ever done anything like this," said Wilsted, who quickly connected with Engen and Gallella, and together, they ran with the idea.
To date, most of their referrals have come from people who have seen the Humanitarian Relief Facebook page or through others who have posted their needs on their behalf.
In response, the community has rallied to collect bottled water, food, toiletries —yes, even the allusive toilet paper rolls — and anything and everything in between.
"People are so appreciative. It's not just that they are getting something, but just the fact that somebody cares enough to help them. For me, that is really the best part. And, the fact that people are willing to look outside their own situation, that is really rewarding," said Gallella.
The one need that continues to be lacking is formula for babies as parents are having a difficult time locating the particular brand best suited for their infant.
Two Sand Canyon women have even gone one step further by creating Easter baskets for local families as Peter Cottontale is apparently also in quarantine and cannot deliver colored eggs or chocolate namesakes this year.
"It's only going to get tougher as the weeks go on, and I'm just glad that we have a resource for them instead of them being stuck at home wondering how they are going to feed their children, or the older people who cannot go out and get food for themselves," Wilsted said.
Asked what kind of reaction they are getting when they make their deliveries to those in need, Wilsted said, "It's amazing. Some people cry. A lot of times people are willing to give back even though we are giving to them."
Engen, who owns The Village Tehachapi, said since her art and pottery business had to close due to social distancing, she decided the space could be still utilized as a receiving center for donations.
"Basically, we want to connect people who can't leave their home, can't get goods or services because they are compromised or have low income, or seniors who shouldn't be leaving the safety of their own homes, with other people who want to volunteer and get what they need," said Engen.
As of Wednesday, the group had made more than 160 deliveries to residents of Tehachapi, Golden Hills, Bear Valley and Stallion Springs and Sand Canyon.
Said Engen, "It is amazingly overwhelming how wonderful our town is and how people have stepped up without question to help so many people."
Those seeking assistance are asked to fill out the survey with the link found at the Tehachapi Humanitarian Relief Group Facebook page.
For those interested in helping, a separate link is provided to keep track of volunteers and the regions that they serve. More information is updated daily on what is needed and how to become involve.