By Naz Sabripour
During this time of uncertainty, many people have been forced to uproot their lives and replace the familiar with an almost entirely new way of life. The ongoing effects of coronavirus (COVID-19), has hit Pasadena, like many destinations, hard in ways that our organization never imagined would happen.
When looking at what the Pasadena Center Operating Company (PCOC) could do to help support our community, especially those in need, we did not hesitate when the opportunity came along to provide healthy meals for students and families of the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD). Understanding that many of these students come from low-income families where three meals a day might not be possible, we wanted to find a solution.
Over the past five weekends, since March 28th, PCOC and its exclusive food and beverage provider, Centerplate, have prepared, delivered, and distributed over 15,000 meals for students and families of the Pasadena Unified School District. Each Saturday and Sunday, 20 PCOC staff members volunteered to transport, set up and distribute meals (1,550 each day/3,100 total weekend). The healthy meals have included a sandwich, fruit, bag of cookies, juice, or milk.
“The meal distribution program has been an amazing experience for the PCOC team, as it is an opportunity to go above and beyond our everyday roles and give back to our community,” said Gianna Wilkins, senior event manager. “Families and local community members are so appreciative of the service we provide and continue to extend their sincere gratitude every weekend. All the positive and supportive feedback has made me grateful for my involvement with the program and to also be a part of Pasadena and PCOC. I am very humbled and honored to not only be a part of something that is shedding light during this difficult time, but also allows me to put others first and stand together with my team as one united front, as one community.”
“Volunteering for PUSD has been a rewarding experience and I feel so blessed and fortunate to belong to an organization that values its local community,” added Amanda Westervelt, destination services manager for the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Each weekend, we show our community that we are here for them through the good and difficult times. Precaution is taken to ensure the safety of our team, from social distancing to gloves and masks. But the fact we are physically out there serving our community means the world to these families. We have started recognizing familiar faces and even receive drawings from kids with ‘thank you’ pictures. When COVID-19 is over, they will remember the laughs, jokes and the impact we made …. remembering PCOC fondly. And isn’t that what we do in hospitality? Make people have an unforgettable experience? So, whether they are coming from out of town or live in our neighborhood, we are here for them.”
It has been a rewarding five weekends and a pleasure to partner with the City of Pasadena and Centerplate to provide for those in need. And what better way to continue the spirit of helping others than to announce that the PCOC will extend the meal distribution program by providing an additional four weekends of healthy meals to the PUSD. This will take place May 2-3, 9-10, 16-17 and 23-24.
Naz Sabripour is Executive Director of the Pasadena Convention Center.
Photo of Centerplate team preparing meals courtesy of Pasadena Center Operating Company.