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Saddleback Church, Michelle Steel team up at O.C. food giveaway event as families deal with coronavirus

Michelle Steel, the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, hands out bottles of water.
Michelle Steel, the chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, hands out bottles of water during a drive-through food distribution event at the Orange County fairgrounds in Costa Mesa on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

On a normal summer’s day, the Orange County fairgrounds could be found packed with people who have come out to enjoy the thrills and delicious bites of the Orange County Fair.

The fair was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but cars filed through the parking lot at the fairgrounds throughout Friday morning.

Saddleback Church put on the food distribution event in Costa Mesa, one of many it has provided since the onset of the pandemic.

“We’ve been giving away food in Orange County for 11 years, and so when COVID-19 hit and about 158 food pantries closed almost immediately in Orange County, we said, ‘You know what, as a church, we’ve got to really scale up,’” said Rana Muncy, the director of mission for Saddleback Church’s regional campuses.

“We are doing about seven times the amount of volume that we would normally do, so we went from serving 2,500 families a month to serving about 5,000 families a week. Just since March 9, we have given away 3 million pounds of groceries to people in need, and we help anybody who says they have a need. They have given it away from L.A. to San Diego.”

Those wanting to find out about future food giveaways can do so at saddleback.com/getfood.

The food given away included fresh produce, shelf-stable food, dairy products and bread.

Hundreds of vehicles lineup for free groceries during a drive-through food distribution event at the OC fairgrounds.
Hundreds of vehicles line up for free groceries during a drive-through food distribution event at the Orange County fairgrounds on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Three lines were set up to help facilitate the food distribution to those who arrived by car. There was also a walk-up option.

Once cars had made their way through the four food giveaway stations, a final stop provided the option for people to participate in prayer with a church volunteer.

“We would offer to pray with them there, but the most important thing is we ask them how they’re doing,” Muncy said. “We give them information on how to handle the food safely, how to protect themselves and their family from the virus, and that’s where we connect with them.

“I can’t tell you how people are just in tears after receiving prayer because there’s a lot of stress that’s going on with the [unease] that’s going on in the world.”

Muncy said that it takes about 150 volunteers to put on an event such as the one Friday. She said Second Harvest and O.C. Food Bank help provide the food, as well as contributions from the church’s congregation.

“I liked how it was very well organized, especially the little special prayer that they give you at the end,” said Cheyenne Verduzco, 34, a single mother of three children who came from Tustin to the food giveaway.

Volunteers with Saddleback Church and Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa teamed up with the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Volunteers with Saddleback Church and Calvary Chapel team up to help hand out groceries during a drive-through food distribution event at the Orange County fairgrounds on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Charles Castro, 44, of Loma Linda was one of the volunteers providing car-side prayer.

“It’s always uplifting,” Castro said. “People are receptive. People need this. People cry. It’s just nice to give them hope and love.”

Cheryl Squires, 34, of Costa Mesa said that she has scarcely left the house since the pandemic.

“I feel very blessed to have this opportunity,” Squires said. “I thought the lines were going to take forever, and I didn’t think we would get more than maybe a box of food, so it was a really blessed surprise to get multiple things to survive on during this time of need.”

At the first station where cars arrived on Friday, Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel handed out water. She said that people can sometimes feel embarrassed to accept help, and she wanted to welcome the participants and make them feel comfortable by giving them a warm greeting.

As for what Orange County residents should be doing to stop the spread of COVID-19, Steel stressed best practices.

“We are just emphasizing that we strongly recommend that you have to wear masks and that you have to have 6 feet of social distancing, and then hygiene, wash your hands,” Steel said. “We are actually promoting ‘Face, Hands and Feet,’ so it means coverings, and then washing, and then 6 feet away.”

Volunteers sort out bottles of orange juice to give out during a drive-through food distribution event at the OC Fairgrounds.
Volunteers sort out bottles of orange juice to give out during a drive-through food distribution event at the Orange County fairgrounds on Friday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The Orange County Health Care Agency reported 14 coronavirus deaths and 418 new cases of COVID-19 in Friday’s update.

There has been 618 deaths due to the virus and 36,196 cumulative cases of the disease countywide.

Signs encouraging masks come courtesy of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, which launched a campaign earlier this month to remind people that keeping the economy healthy means controlling COVID-19.

Current hospitalizations caused by the virus stood at 593 as of Friday, with 191 of those patients in intensive care units.

An additional 5,811 tests for COVID-19 were performed within the last day, bringing the total of related tests in the county to 409,264. The number of recoveries made from battling the coronavirus in the county is estimated to be 23,499.

Here are the latest cumulative case counts and deaths for select cities:

  • Santa Ana: 6,832 cases; 161 deaths
  • Anaheim: 6,191 cases; 153 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 1,668 cases; 45 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 1,184 cases; eight deaths
  • Irvine: 1,174 cases; nine deaths
  • Newport Beach: 820 cases; eight deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 356 cases; nine deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 133 cases; fewer than five deaths

Here are the demographics in Orange County for the case counts followed by deaths:

By age:

  • 0 to 17: 2,178; 0
  • 18 to 24: 5,380; 2
  • 25 to 34: 8,194; 9
  • 35 to 44: 5,912; 18
  • 45 to 54: 5,898; 55
  • 55 to 64: 4,329; 81
  • 65 to 74: 2,120; 114
  • 75 to 84: 1,210; 144
  • 85 and older: 945; 194

By race/ethnicity:

  • Latino: 8,533; 254
  • White: 5,402; 199
  • Asian: 1,541; 90
  • Black: 283; 8
  • Unknown: 16,123; 8
  • Other (includes Pacific Islander, American Indian and multiple races): 4,314; 59

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