"We are just doing what the community should do when times are tough," said Rogelio X., inventory coordinator of Homies Empowerment Program.
Before COVID-19, Homies Empowerment operated as an independent after school program. More than a year ago, the program started a storefront and provided books and clothes for their East Bay neighborhood.
Now they've taken up a new mission to gather as many donations, food and toiletries to the Latino and Black communities that have been impacted by COVID-19.
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"We want folks to shop for free and grab what they need," said Rogelio X.
Every Tuesday, the organization creates a large storefront called the FREEdom store, open for all from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"We have formula and hot food. We respond to what the community needs and what the community asks for," said Reena Balvani, volunteer at Homies Empowerment.
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SOLIDARITY, NOT CHARITY: Homies Empowerment Program in East Oakland has created a FREE storefront to help their community members who have been impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/Zl9ssCP7ee— ABC7 Melissa Pixcar (@MelissaABC7) July 30, 2020
During the pandemic, the FREEdom store saw the need for food was higher than they anticipated. Throughout the week, volunteers and community organizations come together to gather canned goods, fresh vegetables and personal hygiene products to serve over a thousand of people a week.
"It takes a barrio and it takes a community to come together to offer what we have here at the FREEdom store," said Rubi Pelayo, director of operations at the FREEdom Store. "We have volunteers from all over who are offering their time to get this done."
Volunteers at the FREEdom Store believe in standing in solidarity with their community and to provide the help they need at this difficult time.
"We don't believe in charity, we believe in solidarity," said Rogelio X. "To give back to the community any way you can, even if It five minutes or 50 cents. It doesn't matter. Trying to find ways to contribute to the community because we are all in this together."
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"We are going to be open as long as we need to," said Pelayo.
To make a donation to the Freedom Store visit their GoFundMe Page.
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