IN THE COMMUNITY

In the Community: Nourishing Our Neighbors

LaKesha Roberts-Evans, Associate Director of the Ecumenical Hunger Program (EHP), stands inside the organization’s food pantry in East Palo Alto. Photograph by Sierra Garcia.

LaKesha Roberts-Evans was a young child when she began lending a hand at the Ecumenical Hunger Program (EHP). Together with her family, LaKesha would organize the shelves of the food pantry, and sort and help pack food boxes at the East Palo Alto-based direct services organization.

LaKesha now serves as EHP’s Associate Director and recently sat down to reflect on her journey. “I remember as a child coming to EHP for the holidays and unwrapping gifts for the Christmas drives,” said LaKesha. “I have this memory of gifts that we had to arrange by age and put on shelves. It was one of my first experiences participating in my community.”

Following years of volunteering at EHP and working as an educator, LaKesha returned to East Palo Alto and her work at EHP. “I never intended to come back to EHP as an employee, but here I am. This community and organization are part of me and I’m proud to be able to come and work here every day.”

Established in 1975, EHP opened with a vision to distribute food to families in need. The program later expanded to support other critical community needs. “EHP became ‘food and so much more,’ because we realized the need was much more than food. The families in our community needed tables to eat on, beds to sleep in, and clothes on their backs,” said LaKesha, who spoke passionately about EHP and her time with the organization.

January 2019 | Emerald Logan, Ecumenical Hunger Program team member, sorts donated clothes and household goods at the organization’s offices in East Palo Alto. Photograph by Dale Ramos.

Our mission is to care for the community in any capacity we can. We work with individuals who are homeless, families with one and sometimes two working parents, multi-generational households, and seniors.
Today, EHP provides assistance to individuals and families facing hardship in East Palo Alto and surrounding communities. On its busiest days, the organization serves more than 160 families, many of whom come to pick up food or shop for clothes, furniture, and other household items in the community closet. Others visit EHP for legal assistance, a hot meal, acupuncture, referrals to organizations, or to participate in EHP’s other family services.

“Our mission is to care for the community in any capacity we can. We work with individuals who are homeless, families with one and sometimes two working parents, multi-generational households, and seniors,” said LaKesha. She and her team work tirelessly to address the needs of every person who walks into the organization seeking help. LaKesha shared stories of young mothers in need of baby clothes; families that were hosting funeral services and couldn’t afford to feed the families and friends that were mourning; and even a grandmother who wanted to give her granddaughter the perfect holiday present.

January 2019 | George Vakameilalo (left) and Braulio Robinson (right), Ecumenical Hunger Program (EHP) staff, stand in front of an EHP truck in East Palo Alto. EHP staff use the truck to collect donated food from stores and sites across the community. Photograph by Dale Ramos.

EHP closely monitors their programming, adapting it to address the needs of a changing East Palo Alto. “It’s become so expensive to live here,” said LaKesha. “You can have a well-paying job and still struggle to make ends meet. Families have rent, medical bills, childcare, and we are here to help!”

LaKesha and the EHP team have created a welcoming space for the community, treating every individual who seeks their support with dignity and respect. “The families and the community drive my work,” said LaKesha. “The organization is a part of me, and I want to be here to see it, and the amazing people we serve, thrive.”

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative supports EHP through the CZI Community Fund, a grantmaking program that funds local organizations working to address urgent needs in the communities of Belle Haven, East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks, and Redwood City. CZI will be accepting applications for the next round of the CZI Community Fund from August 13, 2019 – September 12, 2019.

Learn more about the Ecumenical Hunger program at ehpcares.com.

Learn more about the CZI Community Fund at chanzuckerberg.com/community/fund.