An extraordinary response for an extraordinary time

August 11, 2020

Anxiety, uncertainty, fear. Just about everyone has experienced these in recent months – we at Venice Family Clinic included. But we’ve been bolstered by a counter force that has allowed us to continue providing the quality care our patients count on: the generous spirit of our community.

We are proud to share this report on our initial COVID-19 response, which outlines how from mid-March through the end of June our supporters came together to help Venice Family Clinic care for the most vulnerable members of our community. Thanks to your generosity, we’ve been able to quickly and safely transform our operations in response to this ever-changing situation and meet the growing needs of our patients. This partnership has made our entire community stronger during this unprecedented time that ties us together.

“We huddle regularly – and at the beginning of the pandemic, we met multiple times a day – to talk about how to adapt our protocols and services so that we are providing the safest and most effective care for our patients and staff,” said Anita Zamora, deputy director and chief operating officer. “The only thing constant through all of this is change. During these stressful times, it is very comforting to know that we have a supportive community behind us providing the resources we need.”

Top of mind

So many people expressed care and concern for our health care workers on the frontlines. While personal protective equipment was in high demand across the country, our friends and supporters were helping to source them for us.

Nearly 74,000 in-kind items were donated. Alex Mecl from Ribbon for Humanity was one of many donors who delivered masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Mecl is the founder of Ribbon for Humanity, a Los Angeles-based disaster relief and humanitarian nonprofit that sprang into action in January to source PPE once they learned of the coronavirus in China. When the pandemic reached LA, they had already built a pipeline of supplies and looked for organizations to help. Mecl said that Venice Family Clinic was one of the first organizations they contacted because of our direct service in the community, and he brought us 9,000 surgical masks to help meet our need.

The community also nourished our staff with donated coffee from Bluestone Lane, pizza from the Hotel Erwin, meals from Wabi on Rose, sandwiches from Patrick’s Roadhouse, meals from World Central Kitchen and more. The Chuck Lorre Family Foundation made a donation to support both our staff and local businesses during these challenging economic times. Thanks to this gift, we were able to purchase over 2,100 meals from local restaurants.

And during a time when our patients were facing job losses and economic insecurity, many donors came forward to help them with basic needs. Among the donations, we received deliveries of diapers and baby supplies from the Good+ Foundation and Baby2Baby, grocery cards from Northgate Market, and feminine hygiene products from the Trident Center.

Answering a call

Many of our supporters showed concern for our neighbors experiencing homelessness, and through their donations wanted to ensure the Clinic was able to reach them. We added services to new locations and continued providing wellness checks on the streets, as well as worked with state and local authorities to help get our most at-risk patients into temporary housing.

“Wells Fargo is proud to support Venice Family Clinic’s innovative street medicine program that is so vital in serving vulnerable neighbors,” said Marcia Choo, vice president of community relations at Wells Fargo. “And we commend the Clinic for 50 years of providing essential health care in the community. Thank you for your leadership and compassion during the most challenging times.”

Eleanor Johnstone, a clean transportation consultant who recently made her first gift to Venice Family Clinic, was moved by our mission and saw donating as a way she could help those in need in her city. “The COVID-19 crisis has made me more aware of vulnerable populations, and the needs in Los Angeles are huge,” she said. “Venice Family Clinic works diligently so that the city can be healthy for all of its residents.”

Doing whatever they can

From the big to the small, support came from all corners of our Clinic family, and we were humbled by those who gave their time and talents.

This year’s Venice Family Clinic Art Walk & Auction was notably different, moving entirely online like so much in recent months. But what didn’t change was the support from our artist community. “Artists are secondary responders. Now, more than ever, I realize how important the Clinic is to our community, and I am happy to help,” artist Gwen Samuels said.

A junior at a local high school dropped off 90 homemade cloth face coverings with the following message: “My family and I made these homemade masks to donate and help our best during this pandemic time. Thank you to all of the workers who selflessly give themselves to others. You are true heroes and should be recognized as such. Love and blessings to you all. Stay safe and know we are all thinking of you.”

Keerthana Sivathasan, an undergraduate pre-med student at UCLA, saw volunteering as her opportunity to step up and help with the daunting task of containing COVID-19. Her volunteer task was to call and check in on community members.

“During a time when social interaction and communication is limited, I can make a difference by making them feel like someone is out there for them and cares about them, which can be a very hard thought to maintain during such a strenuous time,” Sivathasan said. “This is an experience I will never forget for the rest of my life, and I hope we all continue to listen and help each other whenever others may need it.”

And while we had to pause most of our in-person volunteer activities, many volunteers continued to offer their help at our weekly food distribution events. They masked up and safely handed out bags of foods, sometimes for up to 1,800 people per event, helping us make sure that our patients and community members were getting the healthy food they needed.

“The response from our supporters, both long-time and new, has been remarkable,” said Naveena Ponnusamy, chief development and communications officer. “We were able to shrink the revenue gap from canceled appointments and quickly transition to a new way of operating that continues to evolve as the situation with the virus evolves. The initial response has been heartening and affirming, and we know we can count on this support for the many months to come when it will continue to be greatly needed.”