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Volunteers load food into cars on May 27 at St. Leo Mission Church in Solana Beach. Courtesy photo
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Solana Beach group helping families during COVID-19

SOLANA BEACH — As part of a larger effort to serve low-income families, La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc., hosted its third free food distribution on May 27 at St. Leo Mission Church in Solana Beach.

One by one, vehicles snaked through the church parking lot, where upbeat volunteers loaded milk, eggs, tortillas, beans, rice and a large box of fresh produce – enough to feed a family of four for a week.

Music played and volunteers danced. One of them greeted families while wearing a floppy, full-body dog suit. An organizer donned a pink lei and a grass skirt. The festive atmosphere brought levity to recipients who have weathered more than two months of economic hardship brought by COVID-19.

“While some workplaces are reopening, they’re not opening fast enough for families who live on the razor’s edge economically,” said Manny Aguilar, president of La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc.

The biweekly giveaway has grown to serve 80 families who participate in programming and receive services from the community group.

La Colonia de Eden Gardens
A child holds a sign from a vehicle on May 27 at St. Leo Church in Solana Beach. Courtesy photo

The nonprofit organization is tailoring its programs to meet demands brought by the pandemic.

Organizers canceled the Teenology Ranger Summer Youth Leadership Camp to redirect funding for critical needs.

A small fund provides emergency cash to families in $50 increments.

Staff members and volunteers have stepped up their outreach with frequent calls, text messages and flyer distributions to inform members about job opportunities, local food dispensaries, and medical, social and emotional assistance that is available to them.

In collaboration with UC San Diego and The Disconnect Collective, the organization has moved its free counseling, mentoring and tutoring sessions to online platforms. Concerns remain, however, that some students can’t gain access to online education and are falling behind in school.

In addition to the May 27 event, La Colonia de Eden Gardens, Inc. hosted earlier food distributions on April 15 and April 19. The giveaways have been made possible, in part, through support from The Sand Dollar Foundation, Solana Beach Little League, the Coastal Communities Foundation and private donors. Food boxes cost about $35.

The assistance is geared for families who can’t take advantage of government benefits, Aguilar said.

“These are the people who take care of our kids and garden for us and cook for us,” Aguilar said. “We need to help them.”

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