IMPERIAL — Small red backpacks with City of Imperial logos were handed out amid food boxes as the City collaborated with local Faith Assembly Church to help people read and feed at Faith Assembly Church Thursday, August 20.

Volunteers from the City and Faith Assembly handed out red bags of fun and boxes of food in a drive-thru hybrid event, with city, church, and national programs melding together to help locals.

The City of Imperial Public Library’s Lunch and the Library is a grant-funded program by the State, which provides children and teens ages 0-to-18 access to free summer meals, reading programs, and activities that support learning, health, and wellness, said Assistant City Manager Alexis Brown.

Thursday’s Library popup station and free giveaways at Faith Assembly was the third and final of the Library’s summer program, with previous incarnations held at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church and Frank Wright Middle School.

“Normally the Lunch at the Library would have been offered within our Library at our Community Center but because of the pandemic we did go to a pop-up program and we collaborated at meal and food distribution sites (within the Imperial Valley Food Bank network),” Brown said.

“We had to get creative and our staff did a great job of identifying avenues to do that already,” she said. “We just felt like it was a way to meet the objective amid this pandemic.”

Brown said the Library went completely virtual this summer due to the COVID pandemic and provided all their recreation programs virtually through social media, utilizing Curbside To-Go Kits to allow for participation at home.

“With everything going on right now, it's extremely important to continue to provide ways our residents can safely find outlets at home as they're sheltering and still continue to explore different avenues,” Brown said.

“We're not able to have that face-to-face connection that we so often wish that we had,” she said, “so by providing it through these popups we're still able to maintain these connections and provide and facilitate these services but do so in a safe manner.”

Brown said items were given to local kids throughout the summer in order to meet specific grant objectives. Thursday, items in the bags met the objectives in the spelled-out acronym SWAG: ‘S’ for summer reading materials, ‘W’ for wellness, ‘A’ for arts and crafts, and ‘G’ for gardening.

“We're just very thankful that we were able to do that,” she said. “It was just a great collaboration,” she said.

Other partners of the program included the California Library Association, California Department of Education, the California Summer Meal Coalition, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“I feel like the more we can partner with other agencies and even just state and county-level government, we're able to make a real impact,” said Faith Assembly Lead Pastor Dan Bruce.

“(Our partnering with) the City was the first time today (on this),” he said. “I don't know if they are going to partner with us every week, but it was a blessing to have them.”

“I think really, all-in-all, it makes us stronger as a community,” Brown said.

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