6 World Vision U.S. warehouses distribute disinfectant products to partner schools and organizations
— MARCH 11, 2020 —
WHO declares a global pandemic. World Vision declares first global emergency response.
— MARCH 17, 2020 —
Coronavirus has spread to all 50 states.
— MARCH 20, 2020 —
The first distribution of Family Emergency Kits at Lake Burien Presbyterian, near Seattle, WA.
— MARCH 26, 2020 —
The U.S. now leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
— MARCH 27, 2020 —
New York City surpassed 23,000 COVID cases, with 365 deaths.
— APRIL 3, 2020 —
Family Emergency Kit distributions begin in Chicago and New York.
— April 13, 2020 —
Family Emergency Kit distributions begin in the Navajo Nation and on the US/Mexico border.
— APRIL 15, 2020 —
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is delivered to Chicago first responders.
— APRIL 16, 2020 —
Over 20 million jobs have now been lost in the U.S.
— MAY 5, 2020 —
This is World Vision US Programs first project in the Bay area.
— MAY 17, 2020 —
200,000 pieces of PPE have been distributed.
— MAY 18, 2020 —
World Vision begins to deliver Fresh Food Boxes of produce, dairy, and meat to families through faith-based partners.
— JUNE 2, 2020 —
World Vision and partners have delivered 1 million meals to families in need.
— JUNE 30, 2020 —
World Vision partners with Kohler, Adventist Health, and The Shower of Hope to provide shower trailers for unhoused people in Los Angeles.
— JULY 8th, 2020 —
Coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpass 3 million.
— JULY 11, 2020 —
By now, over 1 million in the U.S. have been served by World Vision’s coronavirus relief program.
— AUGUST 3, 2020 —
World Vision has partnered with 138 organizations in the United States as part of its COVID-19 response. That number continues to grow.
As of July 31, 2020 Family Emergency Kits and Fresh Food Boxes have been distributed in 76 communities, serving nearly 3 million people.
Tacoma teacher Carol Santos-Warner brought her 8-year-old daughter with her to World Vision’s teacher resource center in Fife, Wash. Carol came to pick up supplies for her class of nine students who have special needs, including cerebral palsy.
School supplies are important but most critical: "The sanitizing wipes are gold right now," Carol says. "The kids I work with are more vulnerable because of the virus and the pandemic."
“Families are worried. Their fear and concern are around getting food, paying for food, and finding food for their families.”
Pastor Lina Thompson Lake Burien Presbyterian Church Burien, WA
“People are having to ask for help that have never asked for help. When the Emergency Kits came along, that was an awesome blessing. It’s changing people's lives. It’s giving people hope.”
Pastor Helen Epps Morning Star Prayer Center Fort Worth, TX
In the Bronx, New York, Carmen LeBron’s six children—including an infant—needed food. She dashed to a nearby market to pick up essentials, only to find empty shelves.
“Stores are empty,” says Carmen. “Everything is shut down. You can’t describe the feeling of not being able to find milk for your baby.”
Carmen called the World Vision-sponsored supplies she received at a church in her neighborhood “a blessing and beautiful expression of generosity.” In addition to baby formula and diapers, they got hand sanitizer and antiseptic wipes. “My older children were in dire need of these,” she says. “We couldn’t find them anywhere.”
For the last seven years, Carmen has walked by the Evangelical Church Disciples of Christ on her daily outings. “I never had a chance to go in because I have so many kids and they’ve taken every minute of my day and night,” s he says. “Once the doors open, I’ll be going in. The church has helped me in this great time of need.”
“When I opened one [Family Emergency Kit] up, I actually teared up,” says Vincente. “After bad news and bad news, here comes the good news.”
Vincente Quiñónez, from Promise Land Church in Del Rio, Texas
“This is really helping us because every day we’re able to clean the areas where we’re working, clean the areas of the cars, sanitizing. All of this is helping us to help others to be safe.”
Police Officer Sabrina King (right) PPE recipient Chicago, IL
“It’s been a very big challenge having my income more than cut in half.”
Heidi Ehli Family Emergency Kit recipient Tacoma, WA
"We've been really affected with the COVID virus. My husband actually had to go out of town to work because it was the only job his company actually had for him."
Yvent Ibarra Family Emergency Kit recipient Fort Worth, TX
For Esther Gonzalez-Torres, 2020 looked to be a year of celebration. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of Youth Challenge of Connecticut where she’s the Executive Director. This was to be a year of jubilee. Instead, like everyone in the world, Esther faces an unprecedented global pandemic, struggling with how to keep her organization doing their life-changing and -saving work.
Esther’s father, Raul Gonzalez, started the program 50 years ago because he struggled for 11 years with heroin addiction. He lost everything. Nothing could help him. But then he found a program in Brooklyn called Teen Challenge and that put him on another path. He went to Bible School and restored his marriage.
Raul, a Puerto Rican immigrant, served as a chaplain during the Vietnam war where he helped soldiers face their drug addictions. Returning to Hartford, he saw a need for a program like Teen Challenge and founded Youth Challenge.
Esther is the third child out of four and has no memory of her dad as an addict. She tells the residents of Youth Challenge that change is very possible and points to her father’s example. “I never knew an addicted father. I only knew a loving father,” she says. “I had a better future just because of what he did. I encourage them saying this is not the end.”
Youth Challenge addresses the mind, body, and the soul. But to do that, people need to live at the facility. When COVID hit, that meant extra cleaning was needed as well as personal protective equipment (PPE).
“PPE – those things are not in the budget,” says Esther. “Those are things that we had to just start providing – extra cleaning, extra gloves, masks.”
Still, she never entertained closing up because being open means saving lives. “We are working with a huge opioid problem,” she says. “Last year we had 1100 people [in the area] die from overdose.”
When thermometers become like gold
World Vision has been partnering with Youth Challenge for nearly five years, providing items such as furniture, clothing, and toiletries for the nearly 35 residents they serve. As residents graduate from the program, more rotate in. “World Vision is one of those amazing partners and has supported us in a way that I can’t say another organization has,” she says.
As the number of COVID-19 cases rose, World Vision heard about Esther’s need for PPE supplies and offered help. They continue to provide PPE as she needs it. “I have to prepare,” says Esther. “I need it for now and if they keep talking about a resurgence. I don’t want to be caught.”
One thing Esther searched for only to be turned away empty-handed everywhere was a thermometer. “Thermometers are priceless,” says Esther. World Vision’s Hartford site manager, Tim Reeve didn’t know that when he packed up supplies for Youth Challenge.
“When they gave us a thermometer, I almost started crying,” she says. “I sent Tim an email and said, ‘Thank you so much.’ He didn’t know how desperate I was.” Now she’s able to monitor both staff and resident temperatures to make sure that everyone stays healthy.
Trusting God for the future
Esther’s faith has grown through these unprecedented times. “I have more faith now,” she says. “God has kept us. Nobody has gotten sick. That’s included clients.”
She sees the hope that God has offered throughout her life. She sees it in the lives of the people she serves. She sees it in the hearts of the donors.
“Thank you for caring about people, for helping the hurting, for allowing us to continue to be on the front line,” Esther says. “We need you. It’s not over. We have people that are waiting for help. For us, I can’t close. That’s a life.”
And who knows what the life they save might go on to do someday?
Armed with PPE and that precious thermometer, Esther and Youth Challenge continue their work through this pandemic. Even though so much has changed, Esther knows that God has a purpose and plan. It looks different from what anyone expected, but there’s so much to celebrate—like 50 years of Youth Challenge.
Perhaps this is a year of jubilee, after all.
“I think the food boxes are tangible representations of God’s grace. So [if] God can provide apples and tomatoes, He can provide anything that we need. These food boxes are unexpected blessings for people.”
– An elder at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA
“The kids can’t get enough of the fresh fruit.”
Lori McAfee Wings as Eagles Ministries Pine Ridge, SD
“The Fresh Food Boxes from World Vision are a blessing that’s worth far more than the cost of the food in them.”
Frank Rincon Director, Benison Center Immokalee, FL
In March 2020, the world turned upside down for many Americans. That’s when state governors began to issue stay-at-home orders across the U.S. Many businesses were affected, including Derstine's, a family-owned food service distributor in Pennsylvania. As customers canceled their orders, the warehouses brimmed with food, but there was nowhere to send it. Company president Zach Derstine searched for a solution.
The answer to Zach's prayers came on Good Friday as he and his wife Kara watched the virtual Pulse conference—an event where executives share insights, trends, opportunities, and challenges that arise in their industries.
When Edgar Sandoval, CEO of World Vision U.S., spoke about the needs of children and families living in poverty around the world, Kara turned to Zach. “Honey, they need food,” she said. “You have food and you can help them.”
At the same time, Reed Slattery, national director of U.S. programs at World Vision, was working with his team to create Family Emergency Kits. But they were having problems with the food supply chain.
Within the week, Reed and Zach met over phone. Zach could meet World Vision’s needs for the nonperishable food items at a discounted rate for the Family Emergency Kits. World Vision had networks in place that could accept the food Derstine’s had stored in their warehouse.
Since mid-May, Derstine’s has received three USDA grants to distribute Fresh Food Boxes. This program allows food that would otherwise go unused during the global pandemic to reach vulnerable families across the United States.
Medena Lester was making food deliveries to families in Wyoming County, West Virginia. At the Williams home, 4-year-old Phoenix and her mother, Patience, came outside. Phoenix went straight for the cucumbers.
“She seen those cucumbers and she about flipped,” says Patience. “She lit up like a doggone Christmas tree.”
The produce was part of World Vision’s Fresh Food Box distribution, a partnership with the USDA Farmers to Families program to source food that isn’t selling during COVID-19 shutdowns and provide it to families in need. Then churches and community organizations—like MountainHeart Community Services, where Medena works—distribute the food in their communities.
“They’ve been such a blessing,” says Reed Slattery, national director for World Vision’s U.S. Programs, “because a lot of the families that receive these boxes don’t get fresh produce on a regular basis. They don’t have access to these items at their neighborhood store. It’s really been life-changing.”
“I was very fortunate to find World Vision, and they are a blessing to us,” says Medena. Though coal mining is an important industry in West Virginia, jobs have been harder to come by in recent years. “Opportunities aren't plentiful,” she says.
There are no traffic lights here, no public transportation, and no hospital. There are three small grocery stores, but they’re owned by the same company and prices are high. Some families prefer to drive nearly 45 minutes to the nearest Walmart because of cheaper prices. But since many people don’t own cars, Medena delivers food to families in MountainHeart’s Head Start program.
“Early on we develop a relationship with these families,” she says. “We learned their needs. You don’t want those babies going hungry.”
Phoenix is one of Medena’s Head Start children.
Before COVID-19 spread across the world, Phoenix’s father, Bobby, worked on oil and gas rigs to support his family. Even though he had to be away for months at a time, when he came home, he was fully present. But like so many millions of Americans, he got laid off when his job site shut down. Now he works two jobs in town and barely makes half of what he did before. When he comes home, he’s often too exhausted to do much more than eat and fall into bed.
“I could make those bills with no issue before having a little bit left over. Now we’re pinching pennies and making sure we’re watching our money very closely. It’s affected everything,” says Patience about their COVID-related struggles.
When the first Fresh Food Boxes arrived, the family was still waiting for government food assistance. “We weren’t out of food, but we were running low,” says Patience. “From the bottom of my heart I really appreciate it.”
The fresh produce makes her children very happy, which in turn makes Patience happy.
“It’s been a crazy year,” she says. “Everything’s changed. How society deals with everything has changed.”
But they might be turning a corner. Bobby has put in applications for another job with the gas and oil company. They’re waiting to hear.
Until they do, the fresh food helps the family get through.
Medena has a message for the donors: “As long as they’re willing to make the donation, we are willing to put our feet to the floor to get it out to the families in need. I would just like to let them know that they are blessings.”
And for Phoenix in West Virginia, that blessing comes in the form of a cucumber.
Hollywood is synonymous with glamour. But the same neighborhood where tourists photograph stars on the Walk of Fame is home to some of the 60,000 people in Los Angeles who live on the streets or in their cars. Without housing, they lack access to basic sanitation: toilets, showers, and even clean water. This makes good hygiene a challenge—especially with COVID-19 closing businesses and other places with public bathrooms.
One organization that has stepped in to provide relief is The Shower of Hope. They have set up seven showers in the parking lot of the Hollywood Adventist Church—one of 25 locations where they operate.
For years, the church provided two showers through its outreach ministry. But when COVID-19 hit Hollywood and handwashing became more important than ever, Adventist Health, Kohler, and World Vision formed a partnership to help. Thirty-year-old Andrew Froemming, administrative director at the church, oversees the project.
“When COVID-19 hit Los Angeles, the demand for showers went up exponentially,” Andrew says. “Often low-income people have an inexpensive gym membership so they can
shower. But people weren’t allowed into gyms or buildings anymore.”
Eric Birky has lived on the streets of Los Angeles for three years. He learned about the Hollywood Adventist Church and a program it offered called A Million Drops. “We did improv and arts,” he says. “That’s how I got to know the church.”
Now Eric volunteers to help check in homeless people in need of showers. “It keeps me in contact with the church and lets me practice my faith,” he says. “And even though I am homeless, I can give back.”
Eric is grateful for the showers. “The showers are actually beautiful. They are luxurious. The music is piped in. It feels very relaxing. I could stay there forever,” he says. He’s grateful not only for himself but for the thousands of homeless people in Los Angeles: “If these showers weren’t here, it would be very rough for people,” he says.
World Vision supplies necessities to keep the program running. Inside the church are stacked boxes of socks, hand sanitizer, deodorant, and shampoo that have just arrived. “We go through hundreds of bottles every week,” says Andrew.
Andrew himself may soon face homelessness. The church funds his salary through operating the building as a community center. But with COVID-19, all the rentals have gone away.
Last year Andrew’s neighbor became homeless when she lost her job and was evicted from her apartment. “Now I am in the same position,” he says. But he’s staying positive: “I’ve seen God provide. I know that He has something in store.”
Meanwhile, the work continues. “We started with 140 a week,” Andrew says. Last month, they delivered 775 showers. “We are only limited by capacity,” he says. Limited by capacity, but certainly not by love. “People think of Hollywood as being godless,” says Andrew, “but Hollywood has more churches than other places in the city.” And that’s better than getting a star on the Walk of Fame.
“I appreciate it more than they will ever know … This has been a lifesaver for them and for a lot of kids in the community because this is a very poor community.”
Candace Shrader Family Emergency Kit recipient Randolph County, WV
“Man, these food kits are awesome … It gives not only the community a shot in the arm, but it also gives the partner a shot in the arm because it lets us know that we’re not in this thing by ourselves.”
Rev. John Harrell Proviso Baptist Church Maywood, IL
“I am so grateful to have the supplies, the food, and the school items … I don’t know what I would have done without the relief packages. It’s such a hard time and then to lose your job on top of that is beyond. To know that the church and people are out here giving us these kits, I don’t know what to say.”