This column was contributed by San Benito Live founder and San Benito County Supervisor District 2 candidate Kollin Kosmicki. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
With all the intense debate and varying viewpoints over the local COVID-19 response, one fact is undeniable: San Benito County residents, organizations and leaders have stepped up in a big way to help those in need.
We have shown that our small-town community is defined by good people who find ways to care for others—in many cases complete strangers—during a crisis. After the pandemic began in March—with uncertainties abound—the collective decency of our community became a positive force in this response.
Nonprofit organizations moved aggressively to help the needy while providing services and supplies to residents. Individual residents and businesses took it upon themselves to help out where they could. Government agencies and schools saw additional needs and filled them. The examples are seemingly endless.
It was inspiring to read the recent piece in Benitolink from Gary Byrne, executive director of the Community Foundation for San Benito County, detailing how the organization had raised more than $100,000 by late May in a COVID-19 relief fund for disbursement to other local nonprofits.
In the first two months of the pandemic, Community FoodBank of San Benito County significantly boosted its services with the help of additional aid. That included providing supplies to First 5 San Benito—to run its own distribution of food and emergency supplies—so the partner nonprofit could provide for families with young children that it serves.
Many other nonprofits jumped in to help out as well, such as the League of United Latin American Citizens organizing a farmworker relief drive in Hollister, the United Way of San Benito County increasing its outreach and variety of services, the Manger providing warm meals and sanitation supplies to the public, Sun Street Centers offering groceries and hygiene products to locals, Hollister Community Outreach dropping off hot plates for some of the most vulnerable residents in the county, and many other instances of good deeds.
There have been numerous stories of individuals with kind hearts as well. Julie Neff, the local Jefferson Award winner for 2020 and a Spring Grove School teacher, delivered an abundance of donated food to essential workers on multiple occasions. Nicole Franco of San Juan Bautista made a habit of delivering meals to local seniors. Montana Picho, a 10-year-old Ladd Lane student, used $140 of his birthday money to donate food to the local homeless shelter.
The Mifsud family celebrated the 100th birthday of locally retired shop-owning icon Catherine Dabo with a drive-by parade attended by what seemed like hundreds.
Local first responders gave a public salute—a show of solidarity seen in other communities across the nation—to frontline healthcare workers at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.
County employees and elected officials handed out face coverings—in drive-through fashion—to help residents meet the local requirement to wear them.
Scores of residents helped out at coinciding farmworker relief drives—organized and promoted with help from local government officials and residents, Assemblyman Robert Rivas and State Senator Anna Caballero—in Hollister and San Juan Bautista.
Again, the examples go on and on.
While it’s clear that local residents and organizations will continue stepping up as long as needed during this pandemic, there’s something simple that all local residents can do to help our community going forward: shop local.
Small communities like ours are largely defined by the local business community, which has suffered immensely during this crisis. Now more than ever, our small businesses need our support. Additionally, we need our small businesses to thrive in order to sustain a healthy economy and to help fund core services like police and fire.
It goes without saying that “Shop Local” isn’t the most original marketing slogan for a community. At one time or another, just about every city or county has used the tagline.
This isn’t one time or another, though. In this particular moment, “Shop Local” is much more than a marketing slogan.
To the contrary, I urge everyone to view it as a call for service.