CALEXICO — During this summer and all year long, a nonprofit organization, the Brown Bag Coalition, has been donating, volunteering, and providing sustenance to the homeless community of Calexico for the past four years.
“We usually pick the two hottest days … when there is extreme heat and we’ll go out there and give [the homeless] water, Gatorade, Otter Pops, cheese-sticks, and/or anything that’s cool,” said BB Coalition co-founder Maribel Padilla.
During the extreme heat water runs, BB Coalition usually gets 40 people at each of the three stops, Border Park, Donut Avenue, and Rockwood Park, and hands out two water bottles (one frozen), two cold Gatorades, three Otter Pops, and three cheese sticks per person.
Around the same time that BB Coalition posted on Facebook about resources running out for the summer refreshment giveaways, the El Centro Police Department suggested Valley residents not give cash to the homeless but instead to donate to charities that help the homeless.
“Imperial Valley Transit has been helping us since we started back in 2015 by giving us water every year, so, when [IV Transit] saw the post, they went out to Costco and bought a whole pallet of refreshments (1,600 bottles of water as well as various packs of Gatorade),” said Padilla. “I’m hoping this remaining stock will maintain us through the summer.”
According to organizers, many people want to give to the homeless but then get discouraged because they assume the money will be spent on alcohol.
“We want the public to know that organizations exist in Calexico (Brown Bag Coalition), El Centro (Spread the Love), and Brawley (Feed the Need) that they can actually go and take whatever desired donations and be assured that the money will be utilized in a good way,” said Padilla.
BB Coalitions is funded strictly through community and business donations. The Calexico McDonalds has donated $200 every month for the past four years.
Aside from water runs, BB Coalition volunteers feed the homeless every day, including holidays and days of inclement weather at 7:30 p.m. in the parking lot on Third St. and Heber Ave. in Calexico.
Volunteers rotate days and organize the dinners a month in advance.
“From the 1st through the 15th, we’ll see about 50 people a night because many get checks and are flush at the beginning of the month, but when the end of the month draws near and [the homeless] have already exhausted all of their means, we start getting roughly 80-90 people a night,” said Padilla.
Church groups and various families also donate and help volunteer throughout the year with hot meals, pizza, chips, etc.
Padilla described how BB Coalition began.
“On December 30 of 2014, there was a freeze announced by the local weather networks, so I took to Facebook to post about helping the homeless.”
Due to the imminent emergency freezing weather conditions, the Calexico School District lent out the gym to house the homeless for five days, and then Methodist Church opened their doors to for five days as well.
“In the meantime, I lobbied the city council to do something for the homeless community during the freeze and then they granted us an additional 45 days and provided orange tents to set up at a local park,” said Padilla.
After the 55 days were up on February 23, there was still food left over.
“We offered a dinner for the homeless every night in an effort to get rid of the extra food, but the community kept donating and bringing in food and it’s never stopped since then — five years later, we’re still here,” said Padilla.
For anyone who wants to give, donate, or help distribute, just look up Facebook under Brown Bag Coalition or call Maribel Padilla at (760) 997-2140.