With Thanksgiving around the corner, Councilmember Gil Cedillo, District 1, and his team organized turkey distributions for low-income seniors and families in the Glassell Park and Westlake/Pico-Union neighborhoods, showing community support through the pandemic.
Cedillo said he has provided Thanksgiving turkeys to low-income families in the Westlake/Pico-Union neighborhood since 1998, when he became a California state assembly member.
Cedillo’s tradition of providing Thanksgiving turkey distributions to these neighborhoods continued during his time as a California state senator in 2002 through now.
The community turkey distribution was planned for three days — Nov. 16, Nov. 19 and Nov. 23 — to pre-selected District 1 community members to avoid large crowds and to maintain social distancing.
On Nov. 16, Cedillo’s team spent 9 to 11 a.m. distributing turkeys to the homes of seniors with the help of Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF), a nonprofit with the goal of providing “for the socioeconomic betterment of the greater Latino community of California.” The staging area was held at the Glassell Park Senior Citizen Center.
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Cedillo and his team convened at his Westlake Field Office, on Sixth and Bonnie Brae streets, and distributed more turkeys to families in the Westlake/Pico-Union area.
Cedillo and his team will continue to distribute turkeys to low-income families in the Westlake/Pico-Union area, with one turkey per family, which will help 500 families by the end of the distribution schedule.
Cedillo said helping to feed the community, through the turkey distributions, his Senior Meal Program and other food distribution efforts, is part of his mission as a city councilmember.
“COVID-19 has made this (turkey distribution) more urgent and critical. We use our discretionary money on feeding communities in this area, and obviously food scarcity is a challenge for this district,” he said.
Luis Gonzalez, deputy director of community organization with Team Cedillo, described the discretionary funds.
“We are not the wealthiest district,” Gonzalez said. “Of course, there is a mix; (however, generally) these are low-income communities. Our discretionary funds are not as big as other councilmembers, but Councilmember Cedillo committed his discretionary funding that usually goes to printing, and to some extent, salaries to use those funds for the community.”
Gonzalez said that instead of using the money for events, Cedillo prioritized his discretionary funds to be directed toward feeding the community and providing COVID-19 relief through supplies, COVID-19 testing and mobilizing vaccines.
“Thanksgiving is a special day,” Cedillo said. “Everyone has experienced loss of different types like loved ones, spouses, children, employment, neighbors, so we wanted to make sure we provide everyone a meal for Thanksgiving and for them to reflect and move forward.”
Cedillo spoke about the families living in the Westlake/Pico-Union area and said many District 1 residents are essential workers who might be working in grocery stores or factories. They’re coupled with living in households with a large family living under one roof. Cedillo saw the distribution as an opportunity to help and serve.
“Our job is simply about service, and we see this as an opportunity to serve,” he said. “I’m very excited because we all haven’t seen each other for a while (due to COVID-19 and quarantining). This type of interaction, (my team and I) miss it.”
Alejandra Delfin, president of Catalina Walton Neighborhood Association, stopped by Cedillo’s Westlake Field Office for a turkey to feed her family of five on Thanksgiving.
Delfin said the association works closely with Cedillo’s team to coordinate community trash cleanups and other volunteer work. The association is very active” in the Westlake/Pico-Union community, and Delfin enthusiastically said anytime she gets an opportunity to work with the community she never says “no,” because she enjoys helping.
About receiving a turkey, Delfin said, “When they give us a turkey, that’s $10 or $15 that we can save. We can use that money to put toward bills. It’s a good help for us.”
Delfin’s plan is to make turkey birria, a slow-cooked soup or stew, for her family to enjoy for a Thanksgiving dinner.
Gabriela Zaragoza also stopped by for a turkey, which she will prepare for her family of six.
Zaragoza, who does not live far from the councilmember’s Westlake Field Office, said, “The first thing I’m going to do is prepare my turkey for my family because we didn’t have one.”
Having the opportunity to be a part of Cedillo’s turkey distribution is “a great option,” she said. “Times have been difficult right now. I wondered, ‘How am I going to have turkey for my family?’ I found out that Councilmember Cedillo was distributing turkeys and I said, ‘Thank God.’”
Now, without having to worry about having a turkey for Thanksgiving, Zaragoza said her plans are to “just be together” with her family and “to give thanks to life and to God that we are still (alive) when other people are not here anymore.”
Jovita Carrillo pulled her car up to the Westlake Field Office and loaded six turkeys into her trunk to distribute to other community members of the Westlake/Pico-Union in District 1 who could not make it.
Carrillo is president of the Berendo Neighborhood Association (BNA), which has been active for five years and is “under the umbrella” of Cedillo’s team, she said.
Like Cedillo, Carrillo said she has been helping to distribute turkeys before Thanksgiving before working with BNA and now she is able to continue distributing turkeys with the help of Cedillo and his team.
“It’s very great that we are able to have turkeys from (Councilmember Cedillo’s distribution),” she said. “There is a lot of people in my community, Pico-Union, and most of them don’t get a chance to have a turkey for dinner, so this will be very helpful for them.”
“It’s amazing to have this opportunity. As the president of BNA, it feels wonderful to help families have a meal for Thanksgiving.”