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Local humanitarians deliver a steady supply of food, supplies

Grassroots Tehachapi

Mid-March, when COVID-19 restrictions reached our community, the Tehachapi Humanitarian Relief Group was formed.

What began as a simple Facebook post offering help to seniors and those impacted by COVID-19, has become a group with more than 1,800 followers.

Cassandra Wilsted posted on her personal Facebook page offering to help seniors and those most vulnerable to COVID in mid-March.

"Myself and a few other friends pitched in to start a Facebook group and offered our business (The Village that was closed due to COVID) to collect donations and create care packages," said Justina Engen.

According to Engen, group volunteers have delivered more than 600 care packages, which include non-perishable food, diapers, dog food and household supplies like toilet paper. They've also helped distribute 4,032 protein boxes (over 40,000 pounds) in partnership with Salvation Army Tehachapi, Bakersfield Mission Kern and Tehachapi Community Church.

On September 12 the group, in connection with East West Food Rescue and the USDA Cares Act program, distributed 1,771 boxes, 38,900 pounds, of produce.

"The recent food distribution was an amazing success. We were incredibly impressed with how our community stepped up to provide this amazing program to our community," Engen said. "Pioneer True Value donated their forklift, Smarty Pits donated their pallet jack and many community churches came to help distribute produce boxes far and wide."

While the community continues to navigate Covid-19, and businesses begin to reopen and operate in more familiar ways, demand for care packages have decreased. However, the group consistently distributes anywhere from five to 30 care packages per week. "We are planning to continue to serve the community as long as there is a need and donations," Engen said. "Now due to the popularity of the produce distribution we are receiving more requests for help. We are working on getting our nonprofit status so that we can continue to serve our mission to help our community in need."

A permanent food pantry, located in Old Town Tehachapi, is available. They are open for drop-offs every Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and two Saturdays per month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"Everything we distribute is donation based, and we are always collecting donations of non-perishable food, diapers, household staples like toilet paper, cleaning supplies and hand soap. We also take gift cards to grocery stores or Walmart that helps volunteers make grocery runs for those who can't. We also do take monetary donations," Engen said. "Generous donations from Rotary Club, Stallion Springs Community Church and American Legion have helped keep our pantry alive and helped us bless individuals in need with special requests."

For more information about the Tehachapi Humanitarian Relief Group, call (661) 771-7202.