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East Palo Alto Programs Keep The Community Afloat In Tough Times

A man picking up food supplies from the Ecumenical Hunger Program
Scott Carroll
A man picking up food supplies from the Ecumenical Hunger Program

Today, we're going to meet people in East Palo Alto who have been providing people in their communities with everything from food they need to child care.

We'll talk to Lena Potts, the unit director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula's East Palo Alto Clubhouse. During the pandemic the Club teamed up with schools to create WiFi-enabled learning “hubs.” Students worked at socially-distanced desks, had access to free WiFi without distractions, and got healthy meals during the day — things they might not have if at home.

Then, we meet Nevida Butler who has been working with the Ecumenical Hunger Program since it began more than four decades ago. It began as a project to address food insecurity, but it also has a warehouse filled with everything from baby clothes to microwaves and refrigerators.

Nevida used to be the Ecumenical Hunger Program's executive director. Now, she's more like a combination of a personal shopper and a matchmaker: linking financially strapped community members to things they need. And the program is very busy — they've gone from serving 200 families a month to serving 400 families a week, redirecting supplies to people in need instead of the landfill.

Sonia Narang is the editor and project manager for KALW's Health & Equity series. Before that, she managed elections coverage for the station. Over the past decade, Sonia reported social justice stories from her home state of California and around the globe for PRI's The World radio program, NPR News, The Washington Post's The Lily, and more.
(he/him/his) I’m a second-generation Berkeley native. I feel lucky to have grown up in an area with a rich non-commercial and alternative radio scene. As a kid I hid a transistor radio below my pillow, exploring across the dial, long after bedtime. I got to work in radio production with KDVS at UC Davis while getting a degree in Wildlife Photography and Writing in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Documentary film and television production was my main work after college. Volunteering with the Gay Men’s Health Collective of the Berkeley Free Clinic, deepened my interest in science and health advocacy, and drew me into work and further studies in public health. In addition to the Bay Area I have lived and worked in Washington, DC, Central America and Mexico. I’m currently involved helping free clinics across California and I’m a medical student educator in several Western states. I love hearing and sharing people’s stories and working to help make lives better. I’m very happy to be learning and practicing journalism and audio production with KALW.