California Love Drop turns into a forever project

The California Love Drop crew deliver drinks and snacks to healthcare workers at Hoag Hospital.
The California Love Drop crew deliver drinks and snacks to healthcare workers at Hoag Hospital in Irvine on July 2020.
(Courtesy of California Love Drop)

The combined rolodexes of Wing Lam, Eric Morley and Wendy Ellis made California Love Drop what it is today.

When the coronavirus pandemic began taking a toll on Wahoo’s Fish Taco franchise locations spread across California and the U.S., Lam was determined to not let the food in storage spoil.

The business had to furlough or lay off about 80% of staff. Lam gave away as much perishable inventory as possible to employees but still had leftover food that had to be cooked.

“Can you help me deliver some tacos?” Lam asked Morley over the phone.

Morley, whose company Blue C is behind Wahoo’s social media, ads and marketing, said, “You never say no to Wing because it’s always an adventure and you never know where it’s going to go.”

On April 12, 2020, California Love Drop made its first delivery to Hoag Hospital in Irvine. Volunteers served about 300 Wahoo’s Fish Taco meals to healthcare workers.

The crew called their event and brand contacts like Monster Energy, Clif Bar and Antis Roofing & Waterproofing to donate items and help make more deliveries.

Ellis, who worked in events like Coachella and Stagecoach under Golden Voice before moving to KLOS, was one of the contacts who participated early on.

She helped bring in Drake’s Organic Spirits, which produces vodka, to start making hand sanitizers and KLOS’s Heidi and Frank radio hosts to donate plastic bottles, which were delivered to hospitals and residential houses.

The volunteer-based team packages hand sanitizer bottles in early 2020.
The volunteer-based team packages hand sanitizer bottles in early 2020.
(Courtesy of California Love Drop)

Every week, Lam goes on the Heidi and Frank Show to talk about California Love Drop happenings.

People started calling asking to deliver food to a variety of groups — first responders, essential workers, seniors and students. The crew, made up of about 60 volunteers, has delivered over 11,000 meals at 61 locations. The group has expanded its offerings to include face masks, backpacks and toys in addition to meals.

“California Love Drop is one of those things that wasn’t built because of a business objective,” Morley said. “It was built to take care of people and put that smile on people’s face.”

The group’s operation model has also spread out past the state to Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

“The beginning of this year, we talked about how we’re doing this much longer than we thought but there’s a need for this,” Ellis said. “It’s not just a COVID thing. We think of it as making it an indefinite, permanent project.”

Lam said even if the volunteers, some of whom are furloughed, go back to full-time jobs, he can still see everybody dedicating a day or so to California Love Drop.

Many potential volunteers have reached out to ask about helping, but the crew has been careful about not having too many people show up for deliveries. Ellis said she hopes after the pandemic is over that the group will be able to open up more opportunities for volunteers.

The crew plans to commemorate its one-year anniversary in April with a delivery to their first location at Hoag Hospital.

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