With lines of both vehicles and walk-ups wrapping around two blocks, it was evident that the demand for school supplies was at an all-time high at the 5th Annual Local Hearts Foundation Back to School Drive on Saturday, Aug. 29. at Macarthur Park located in East Long Beach.
Over 50 Local Hearts Foundation volunteers set up at MacArthur Park and in front of the Mark Twain Public Library to distribute 750 bags full of daily essentials and school supplies.
Volunteers were up past midnight the night before, preparing hundreds of bags for the drive which contained items such as pencils, Creative Flow Arts folders, Dr. Squatch soaps, Bombas socks, Grizzly t-shirts, notebooks, Diamond Supply Co. facemasks designed by Big Sleeps and other items.
“We wanted to be able to give them those tools so when they do go back [to school] they at least have something at home, “Tito Rodriguez said, co-founder of the Local Hearts Foundation.
Recipients were able to either drive through the pick-up zone or walk up on a separate line as long as masks were being worn. Many cars had already lined up before the event started, wrapping around the block. Some vehicles were completely packed with occupants requesting multiple bags of school supplies.
Comedian Antonio Parker, more widely recognized as @Negroguapo1905 on Instagram, known for his “life of the party” attitude and viral skits in Spanish, was on-hand to assist in distributing the bags.
A friend of Rodriguez, Parker has previously volunteered with the Foundation during the Thanksgiving turkey giveaway events.
“I’d rather be over here than at the house, a lot of people don’t have what we have, so they come over here so we can give out and help out the community,” Parker said.
In less than an hour, the 750 school supply bags had been claimed.
Twelve of those bags contained Amazon Fire tablets that the foundation was able to secure for some lucky recipients.
Bernie Lopez attended the event with her four daughters and a neighbor, they received one of the bags with a tablet in it. Lopez was told about the event through the girls’ father who follows Tito Rodriguez, the Hood Santa, on Instagram.
Nayeli Castro, who drove from Inglewood with her 5 children, were also the recipients of a tablet.
Regarding that the bags were claimed so quickly, HJ Chong, co-founder of the Local Hearts Foundation, expressed his mixed emotions.
“It’s beautiful because we accomplished the goal, but it’s sad because we had to turn people away and to be honest with you, I’m not happy about it,” said Chong.
Another “beautiful” aspect of the drive for Chong was all the family and friends of the foundation who came out to support.
“Everyone here is friends and family. And you can tell that everyone’s here because they want to be here, and 50% of the people here are people that we impacted through the last 10 years through the foundation,” Chong said.
Pedro Castellanos-Aguilar, who the foundation helped out with organizing the ‘Buy Out Pedro’ event was even in attendance assisting everyone as well.
“It sucks that people did come over here, you know, because of us and we weren’t able to give them what we offered, but if they reach out to us, we’ll definitely make sure they’re taken care of.”
For those that weren’t able to receive a bag of supplies, they can contact the Local Hearts Foundation by reaching out to them via their official Instagram at @localheartsfoundation or emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.