By Teresa Adamo – Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
During times of crisis, chaos and trauma, people go into what’s called “survival mode.” To cope, the brain shuts down certain functions – focusing instead on combating danger.
It’s all about getting from one day to the next.
And that’s exactly what happened to many residents of Crestline. Due to record-breaking snowfall in late February and continuing into March, the area was cut off from basic resources. More than eight feet of snow would ultimately cover the town, leaving many people without power or access to supplies.
“So, we brought a food drive … unfortunately, their grocery store has collapsed and we’re just trying to help them out, bringing them some fresh food and making sure they are able to go through this terrible time,” said Rene Alvarez, an IEHP (Inland Empire Health Plan) community partnership representative, referencing the loss of Goodwin & Son’s Market, the area’s only supermarket whose roof caved from the weight of heavy snow.
“So, the important thing, honestly, is that IEHP is present and we’re helping – that’s literally what we’re about, helping our members, making sure they’re obviously the center of our universe.”
HELP IS ON THE WAY
IEHP member Suzanne O’ Hara remembers the moment she learned “the health plan with a heart” was on the way.
“I got a message in the middle of all of it from IEHP … saying they were there, and they wanted to help,” she said. “And you know, I cried when I read that text because it really does mean something to know that outside the community, other people are noticing and they’re sympathizing.”
On March 29 and April 10, in response to the dwindling supplies in the Crestline area hit so severely by the unprecedented winter weather, IEHP’s community partnership team put the organization’s mission “to heal and inspire the human spirit” into action.
Thanks to the ongoing collaboration among Food Forward, Hearts & Lives, San Bernardino County 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Rowe, San Bernardino County Public Health, the Crestline community and IEHP, another free food distribution is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, April 24 at the Hearts & Lives office, 24028 Lake Drive, Suite A. The items are offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
With mounds of snow still surrounding Crestline, IEHP employees will once again travel to the mountain town and set-up “shop” in front of the Hearts & Lives office – a valued community partner, which also offers the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) among other helpful support services.
At the previous events, residents lined up at the various free food stations on Lake Drive, where an army of helpers – dressed in their warm, IEHP-branded gear – gladly filled plastic bags to the brim. And each time, the grateful recipients of those stuffed sacks offered their thanks and appreciation.
ON THE MENU
Among the welcomed donations IEHP has brought – which can change without notice, depending on availability – was an incredible 16,147 total pounds (12 pallets each time) of fresh fruits and vegetables, including bananas, Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, butter lettuce, oranges, potatoes, kale and Korean pears.
For Crestline resident Juana Valenzuela, getting through these difficult months meant burying some emotion – at least until help arrived in the form of the food giveaway hosted by IEHP.
“I appreciate you guys from the bottom of my heart,” she said, tapping her chest, then breaking down into tears. “I guess it’s coming out now – I was, we were, just (in) survival mode, trying to survive it, that’s it.
“Thank you, IEHP,” she added through her tears. “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”
Teresa Adamo is the special projects editor, marketing and communications, for the Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP).