By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Delanna Covarrubias was seeking a way to help others in her mountain community after COVID-19 hit the country and many she knew were instantly unemployed. She loves the traditional mountain way of helping one another and she sought a way to help.
Over the past 30 years on the mountain, Covarrubias has seen the community come together again and again to help others. She has worked in restaurants over the years, as well as managing and running businesses, and loves to cook for her seven children. She wanted to help families with children.
“Up here we somehow still manage to hold true to old fashioned community values,” Covarrubias said. “We are in a time where those values are desperately needed to help some of our most vulnerable. We have families without food or resources in our tiny communities.”
She asked around and found support from Bill Mellinger of the First Baptist Church in Crestline. She started “a warm meal and food giveaway.”
Collaborating with the church, Covarrubias was allowed to use their cooking facilities and the congregation provided many contributions toward the meals. They also provided some nonperishables that were donated to the families. Her own family members helped finance the first couple of community meals.
Covarrubias started cooking a hot meal for those who came at 11:30 a.m. on Mondays to the church at 533 Springy Path, behind the Higher Grounds Coffee House in Crestline.
Last Monday, she, her family and a volunteer crew, including many Rotarians, made 168 meatball sandwiches and breakfast parfaits. She was able to give out 50 to 60 bags of groceries for a family of four, including cereal and ramen; a gallon of milk from Hinckley Dairy farms (Dairy Farmers of America and Alta Dena), who donated over 240 gallons of fresh milk; lavender honey lemonade and a handful of Vitamin C, plus a special bag of treats for the children. This week, Thousand Pines Camp also baked and donated 100 fresh loaves of bread. Next week, she hopes to be able to cook 250 meals for the Monday hot meal, since one-third more folks arrived this week.
“We were fortunate that Pastor Mellinger coordinated with Thousand Pines Camp to store all the milk donated to us in their large refrigerators. He also had Goodwin’s Market send over workers with dollies to unload and move all the milk when it arrived,” said Covarrubias.
Members of the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club have offered continual assistance. They help by carrying and organizing food bags and set up the easy-ups each week. “We have started getting donations from selfless community members and a wonderful check covered meals for two separate days the week the schools were not doing their Wednesday meal over spring break,” Covarrubias said.
Cash donations from the Crestline and Lake Arrowhead Rotary and the Crestline Lioness clubs have also assisted the hot meal project. Additional food was purchased from restaurant suppliers, thanks to a restaurant up here that connected Covarrubias with one of his vendors.
Covarrubias has strict sanitation standards for her crew: Those handling food have county food handlers permits, they check all volunteers’ temperatures and wear gloves and masks.
“We keep a six-foot buffer between our amazing volunteers out front as the cars drive up to limit the possibility of furthering this epidemic,” added Covarrubias. Two of her children who worked at the Lakefront Tap Room in Lake Arrowhead are assisting her, as well as two of her other seven children. Rotary members handed out the food.
Beginning on Thursday, April 23, Covarrubias plans to offer the same service to the Running Springs area. Because of the generosity and support of Andy Wexler at Pali Mountain, she has been offered a house with a kitchen in which to prepare and serve meals one day a week for the next two weeks.
Thousand Pines has again offered to make 100 fresh loaves of bread for Running Springs, too.
Check Covarrubias’ “Kvell” Facebook page for the exact location. “Kvell” means to feel happy and proud.
“If we continue to receive donations and support, we will do this as long as possible because we do not want to watch our neighbors suffer without trying to help. We are able to do this through the kindness, generosity and positivity of the community,” Covarrubias said.
Anyone wishing to contribute or volunteer may do so through the “Kvell” Facebook page. Covarrubias is seeking a few drivers to deliver some meals. Those who want to donate through a 501(c)3 can contact Bill Mellinger at (909) 338-1918 at the First Baptist Church; he will give the funds directly to Covarrubias for the hot meals.
“To us, this hot meal outreach is very uplifting and satisfying,” Covarrubias said.