By Maureen McNair
Here is a good reason to answer a telephone call from an unknown phone number, even in the weeks leading up the election: it could be actual good news! Shirley Koch works for Rady’s Children’s Hospital in a program called Health Stars. Health Stars provides early literacy intervention for low income and homeless parents with children up to age 8. It was Shirley on the phone calling to introduce herself and ask if she and her team could distribute books and literacy information at some of our Saturday food and Sunday diaper distributions. I immediately agreed. Not only that, after Shirley explained her literacy mission in more detail, I let her know she had hit pay dirt to help her meet the goals of Health Stars.
Prior to Covid-19, Health Stars workers read to children at schools, sent home books with them, and met with their parents to provide low income and homeless parents with more literacy resources. Health Stars had to close down the way they rolled out their program last March when the State went into lockdown. Now, Shirley said, they want to reach those same parents in other ways.
I told Shirley she had hit pay dirt because of the Chula Vista neighborhood where we are located. We are in a Promise Neighborhood. Promise Neighborhoods are identiﬁed by the US Department of Education as targeted places to improve results for at risk children from cradle to college.
In California, up until 2018, there were only four Promise Neighborhoods in the entire State — in San Francisco, Hayward, Corning, and a cluster area including Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, and San Ysidro. But, last year, in 2019, the US Department of Education added our Chula Vista neighborhood as only the ﬁfth California Promise Neighborhood. About $5 million in funds will be funneled into our community through the Promise Neighborhood program.
Shirley was thrilled to hear a broad description of the area where our clients come to get food. She made plans right away to distribute books written in both English and Spanish, which she and a colleague did for the ﬁrst time this past Saturday.
I let Shirley know that we give food to about 160 heads of household. We agreed she would be on site from 8:30 AM - 12:30 PM. However, she left just after 9 AM because she had already run out of the 50 bags of books she prepared to give away! Next time, she says she will prepare more bags.
I am really excited for the children and grandchildren of our pantry clients who will periodically have new books appearing in their homes now. Next up, Shirley plans to give away book bags at a Sunday diaper distribution where we provide diapers for about 75 children every week.
Don’t you just love it that we are nourishing both the bodies and minds of people in our South Bay community!
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