Carpinteria Children's Project

From left are Maria Gonzalez, Teresa Alvarez, Louisa Ornelas, Maria Chesley, Angelica Orngelas, Isabel Martinez, and Martha Haro.

Editor's note: There’s nothing like a global pandemic to remind us of how lucky we are to live in a small, tight-knit community where no one is a stranger and everyone deserves compassion. For some Carpinterians, the COVID-19 pandemic became their Superman phone booth, the time and place to switch on their powers. We marvel at what so many community members have done to make the discomfort bearable and sometimes even beautiful. When the going gets tough, these Carpinterians get going. 

While infection rates for Covid-19 remained low in Carpinteria, the pandemic got very real, very fast for working families once the schools shut down in mid-March. For the most vulnerable families in Carpinteria, shelter-in-place orders brought with them food insecurity and deep uncertainty for the foreseeable future. 

The Carpinteria Children’s Project, already a nexus of social services and early childhood education, quickly pivoted to focus on food distribution and community support. CCP’s Executive Director Maria Chesley says, “Bringing together organizations to best meet community needs is a primary strategy of the Carpinteria Children’s Project, so it’s been natural for us to expand that role during the Covid emergency.” 

Chesley leads the organization with great attention to detail and appreciation for her staff and partner agencies. “It’s in our DNA to provide a forum and support so that organizations can work together as a team,” Chesley explains.  

Expanded weekly food distribution (CCP already had a longstanding weekly food offering) was established with Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, and the Boys & Girls Club of Carpinteria jumped in to help. “We served 546 families on April 22,” Chesley reports, “representing 2,135 individuals… that’s a healthy chunk of Carpinterians, perhaps one in six or seven.”

Additionally, CCP’s Family Resource Center helped coordinate with other agencies to identify those most in need in the community and get prepared meals and enhanced Community Supported Agriculture boxes to them via the 93013 Fund—a new program of the Sunset Rotary Club of Carpinteria to distribute donated funds to area nonprofits.  

In addition to continuing early childhood education programming via Zoom (the kiddos love seeing their teachers and friends), perhaps nothing speaks more directly to the essence of what CCP or the Family Resource Center is, than Chesley’s explanation of the newly established CCP Cares Call Line at (805) 203-6648: “We encourage Carpinterians to call their vulnerable neighbors and check on them. Just knowing you are thinking of them can bring relief, and please pass out our cares line number if we can help. There’s no need to face this challenge alone; we will do everything we can to help and to connect with others who can help.”

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