April Chillura is an Alpine resident who took it upon herself to use a day’s worth of income and tips as an Uber delivery driver to buy food for the homeless around the Thanksgiving holiday. 2020.
Since then, her 26-year-old daughter Crystal Davis has joined her in transforming what started as a one-time project into a regular monthly food distribution.
The first round, Davis said, was relatively local. She and her mother drove meals down the mountain and distributed them to visibly homeless people near El Cajon, mainly because it’s the closest place to Alpine and it seemed be a lot of people suffering from food shortage.
“We started at El Cajon, but this got us through downtown San Diego through Petco Stadium. There seems to be an overwhelming number of homeless people in this neighborhood, ”Davis said.
Despite being a recent transplant from Florida, Davis’s observation is consistent with the 2020 One-Time Tally, an overnight snapshot that counts the number of homeless people in different census blocks. The report shows that just one homeless person lives in Alpine, 310 in the neighboring town of El Cajon and 2,283 in the city of San Diego, more than seven times more than in El Cajon.
“Now we just went downtown and last time we ran out of food after a street. It’s so sad because people ran to our car to get food. I gave cookies that I bought for my son to a lady for her grandchildren, ”Davis said.
Out of nowhere, said Chillura, a third lady has joined forces on the project. Lisa Sitko heard about the local project and figured they might use unnecessary take-out boxes from the discontinued Great Plates program, a home-based meal delivery service for the elderly that the Federal Emergency Management Administration canceled on July 9. .
“The program was wonderful – it was designed to keep seniors out of stores and reduce exposure to COVID, while also supporting local restaurants, but I saw that they were closing this program and all of their containers were a good size and microwaveable, designed for delivery. When I saw April’s post on an alpine site, I asked him to pick them up, ”Sitko said.
Since then, Sitko, who knows Alpine well after nearly 30 years in the community, has pooled the volunteer skills she acquired over decades as a Navy wife and helped coordinate the collection. articles for Chillura and Davis to distribute.
With each food race, the project, now called Helping Hands Alpine by Davis and Chillura, grows a bit more as women discover individual needs.
“I think this was the second time we did this, we handed out around 100 burgers and around 10 vegan burgers. So many people were grateful for the meatless ones that we’re now trying to include more of things like that, ”Davis said.
Chillura and her daughter buy shelf-stable items in bulk and plan ahead how to stretch their dollars when it comes to buying perishables so they can create as many meals as possible to hand out with canned soda. and bottled water.
“There are things some take for granted others can’t get, like a clean bottle of water, a hot meal, or even toiletries,” Chillura said.
A few members of the community have also started to take note. Alpine Well Cafe owner Alan Kennedy “sets aside resources to help” each month, Sitko said. Toiletries were donated by some people as well as dog food.
“Alpine really comes together. Junktion 101 the store had us take boxes of food and we picked up chicken from an older lady who overheard us there was someone wanting a blanket so she gave us tons of blankets, ”Davis said.
Even though, she says, “we had someone who was rude to us about supporting the homeless, called them crackheads,” most people they meet thank them and say goodbye to them. ask which church they belong to.
“We say that we are not from a church, that we are just helping the community. Sometimes I take my two year old son with me because I want him to learn that even though some people are not well placed, they still deserve help and support. Having to worry about your next meal is a bad feeling, ”said Davis.
She and Chillura don’t have a specific day each month to deliver food, but currently schedule their errands about four weeks apart.
“It’s like an overwhelming maid,” Davis said.