The David family and their friend, Bridget Keenan, were sitting on the grass surrounded by hundreds of oranges and grapefruits on a brisk Thursday morning.
They had just picked the fruit from a neighbor’s trees and were counting and sorting them, choosing the best to be donated to the Burbank Temporary Aid Center.
It’s Helena David’s goal this year to pick 100,000 citrus fruits and donate them to the needy.
As she drives around town, the Burbank resident said she sees trees bursting with ripe fruit that no one has time or energy to harvest.
On Jan. 28, the team, including her husband, Scott, and their son, 15-year-old Aaron, picked another neighbor’s trees and took 984 oranges and 73 grapefruit to the center. On Thursday, they brought 215 lemons, 287 grapefruit and 1,605 oranges. The total to date is more than 3,000.
Helena David wants to encourage more people to look around their neighborhood and offer to pick the fruit and donate it, or contact her team to pick the fruit for them.
“This is a really bad economy, and a lot of people are very hungry,” she said. “On the news, they show the people starving in Africa, but first you need to take care of your own people. I was born in Africa, and I know how bad it is there, but I’m an American citizen, and these are the people I need to help first. Why turn your back on the people in America to feed other countries. Charity begins at home.”
Some families with children are on the margin, and their earnings put them just out of reach of government assistance, Helena David said. The children aren’t entitled to get the discounted school lunch. By donating citrus fruits to the center, the families with children and senior adults can get the vitamins they needs, she added.
“Many people are like ourselves; they don’t have money to donate,” she said. “But they certainly have a lot of fruit in their backyard, and it’s free. It’s a gift from the earth. Why not share it, instead of letting them rot away?”
And the time commitment to picking and sorting is only two or three hours a day, Keenan said.
“Everybody is having a tough time right now,” said Scott David. “It only takes a couple of hours a week, and it’s great to help out. It could be us in their shoes tomorrow.”
Executive Director Barbara Howell said she was looking forward to the team bringing another load of fresh fruit.
“People give us canned goods, and we are very appreciative, but fresh fruits and vegetables are just an amazing treat that we are not often able to share with our clients,” she said. “It’s a very healthy snack, and oranges aren’t as perishable as say a pear or tomato.”
And if the center receives more fruit than they can give to their clients, they share it with the Boys and Girls Club, Salvation Army and other agencies, Howell said.
The citrus donation comes at a time when the center’s pantry shelves are sparse, she said. The most important staple they lack is peanut butter.
“We tell people, if you are going to spend just $5, buy peanut butter or macaroni and cheese in the dry package,” she said. “Peanut butter doesn’t involve any preparation for those who are homeless, and they can carry it with them because it doesn’t need refrigeration.”
Fax Helena David at (818) 846-1262 to have the team come out. Include name, phone number and days and times they can come.