Remember the sandwich-making stations outside of Café M? Ever wonder what happens after those sandwiches get packed up? According to Head of Community Outreach Pamela Wright, these sandwich drives happen about once a month, and the sandwiches do more than help Covenant House feed homeless youth in the Los Angeles area—they save lives. Here is their story.
Step One: Construction
Wright sets up the table for sandwich-making with help from parent volunteers. The table is stocked with everything from bread to fruit to chips in order to pack lunches effectively in paper bags. Come lunch time, these tables are flooded with girls spreading peanut butter and jelly on bread. By the end of the day, Marlborough students have used up all the sandwich-making materials, and Wright packs the sandwiches away to be taken to Covenant House.
Step Two: Transport
Later that very same day, Covenant House employee Jose Silva comes to Marlborough to pick up the sandwiches. He loads them onto a van and takes the mile journey to the Covenant House shelter, or, as employees prefer to call it, the campus. Once arriving at the campus, these sandwiches’ journey is halfway over.
Step Three: Preparing for their final voyage
Every night at five or six p.m., the Covenant House Outreach Team prepares to deliver sandwiches, blankets, clothes and information to homeless youth all over Los Angeles—from Skid Row to Venice. There is always at least one familiar face during these van rides.
Covenant House Community Involvement Coordinator Noel Russell shared some of the stories of the youth who benefit from the Outreach Program.
“There was a young person who recently came here who told me that she would wait…for our Outreach team, every single night… she knew that when she’d see our outreach team that she’d get a meal and that she’d get a smile and someone that would remember her name,” Russell relayed, adding that another youth told her he views the team as the “lifeguards of the street” because they always notice when someone is missing and want to know why.
Along with sandwiches, these vans and their workers bring the knowledge of on-site assistance as well as information of how to get off the street.
Step Four: Consumption
This will be the last stop for many of the sandwiches, and for them, it is arguably the most important: the sandwich will find its way to a homeless youth’s stomach. According to Russell, these sandwiches not only provide a meal to these kids, but they also allow for Covenant House employees to make contact with these homeless teens on a daily basis and to build relationships and trust in order to help them get off the streets.
“Food is a great point to meet on, someone receiving food allows us to build trust…We believe that everyone deserves to have their needs met and then more, so when we meet your fundamental needs, we actually are doing what we say in the moment. It’s also really beautiful thing because it’s a larger connection with the community, so really we’re bringing in hundreds of hands to help one individual every single time that exchange happens…A lot of kids count on that at night for their meal,” Russell said.
For the sandwiches that are eaten, their goal has been reached, but for the leftovers, they make their way back to the Covenant House campus.
Step Five: Refrigeration
The sandwiches that make the return trip to Covenant House find their way into refrigeration. These sandwiches may be eaten throughout the day by Covenant House residents, the 100 people who sleep there a night, or by any of the countless others who stop by throughout the day and night, as Covenant House is the last 24-hour shelter in Los Angeles. Russell told the story of one such sandwich making its way into the hands of a young man who came into Covenant House and was handed a sandwich from Marlborough, upon asking if the staff at Covenant House kept sandwiches on the campus. The exchange that followed touched Russell’s heart.
“[The security guard at the front desk said] ‘yeah, a school put these together specifically for you,’ and this young man looked at our front desk security officer and said, ‘well, how did they know I was coming?’ And when he told me that, I teared up a little bit. That’s wild, but it’s massive,” Russell said adding that these sandwiches allow homeless youth to understand that they deserve to have their needs met.
Wednesday, March 16 is the next sandwich-making opportunity for students.