Burbank resident Helena David is nearing her goal to pick 100,000 pieces of fruit by the end of January. Throughout the year, she has been coordinating a donation project in which she and her teams pick fruit from trees in the yards of people from Burbank, Glendale and throughout Los Angeles and then takes them to nonprofit organizations that assist the homeless and needy.
Helena, along with her husband Scott and two neighbors, delivered 4,199 lemons, oranges and avocados to the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry on Dec. 23. That brings her grand total for the year to 84,801, she said.
Luis Oliart, director of the food pantry, said the organization is a 100% all volunteer coalition of 12 Christian and Jewish congregations. They distribute bread and nonperishable food items to the homeless and needy from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday and Friday in a parking lot at 4390 Colfax Ave. in Studio City. The food is collected by congregations, individuals, schools and community organizations.
“We are faith-based but there are no religious components that go out with the food,” he said. “Our common mission is humanitarianism and care for our community.”
In November, the food pantry received the designation as Organization of the Year from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Oliart said.
Bill Noel was helping Oliart distribute the fruit from boxes on a table to those in need after David and her team arrived at the church parking lot. Noel has helped out at the distribution center for five years.
“I'm homeless,” he said, “so I try to give something back to the community.”
Steven Maroulis, 43, of Valley Village, was also helping with the distribution. He was a firefighter before becoming injured and is now on disability, he said. He has been volunteering with the food pantry for three years, he said.
“Since I'm on disability, I volunteer here and at a senior citizen home in Sherman Oaks. It makes me feel like I'm a part of something.”
Maroulis said that although he is unable to work, he has a roof over his head and food on the table.
“I'm more fortunate than these folks are,” he said.
Helping David pick and deliver the bounty of fruit were Hannah Hart, 17, a student at Burroughs High School and her sister Molly, 14.
“I heard my mom telling my sister about it and I thought it would be fun,” Hannah said. “It's a good project because the people need the food, especially because of the holidays, and it makes me feel good to help others who need the help too.”
Molly helped David two weeks prior as part of her volunteer service obligation for school, but had so much fun she decided to do it again without receiving service hour credit, she said.
“It's actually pretty fun” Molly said. “It feels good to help people and makes the holidays more memorable.”
Both girls could be at the mall or movies like their friends but have chosen to help others, David said.
Picking the fruit is one perspective of volunteering, but by delivering the bounty, the girls see the people they are collecting the fruit for, which makes a bigger impact on them, David added.
“They see the fruit going to the people in need — all kinds of people,” David said. “But they are all the same — everybody is having a tough time.”
The team has only one request for the public: “If you have a fruit tree with extra fruit on them, please give us a call and help us with helping the community,” David said.
You can help your community by calling David and her team at (424) 999-8926. Alternatively, you may send an email to: email@example.com.
-- Joyce Rudolph, for Times Community News
Editor's note: Joyce Rudolph is a former features editor for Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader.