CLEVELAND — With vaccinations ramping up, the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic seems to be getting brighter every day, but the problems brought on by COVID-19 still continue for families.
Many are struggling to afford basic necessities, like food and hygiene products and others dealing with things like mental health issues.
One Cleveland community activist is making sure those families get the support they need right now.
When it comes to serving the community, it's all about coming together and lending a helping hand.
“I think one person can help the next person, that can help the next person, that can help the next person,” Denyelle Rashid, of Cleveland, said.
At just 13 years old, Rashid’s daughter, Logan Williams, is already a philanthropist. She started her own nonprofit called Blanket Blessings and donated 300 blankets to people in need on her 10th birthday.
Last year, after seeing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their community, Rashid and Williams expanded their efforts beyond blankets.
“We stuffed the boxes around the neighborhood, my daughter and myself, with just food kits or soaps,” Rashid said. “When we stuffed the box right in front of East High School, it wasn't even three minutes before people were there, taking the food or items or soap or whatever they needed and when we came back within two hours, the boxes were completely empty.”
And they got some help replenishing those boxes with hygiene kits put together by Jowan Smith, the CEO of 1,000 Ties.
“Jowan happened to bless us with some hygiene kits,” Rashid said.
Smith’s non-profit is in the business of blessings, helping teach young men life skills, pairing them with mentors, and providing them with free neckties.
She also holds workshops at local schools each year for families.
“I have a licensed psychologist that comes in and works with them, we've had financial literacy for the parents,” Smith said. “We've had a dietician come in and work with them on healthy eating and different exercises that they could actually do from home.”
During the pandemic, Smith saw how much more help those families needed.
“Just the basic necessities. Hygiene items, household products, PPE products, food, clothing.”
So she started handing out her hygiene kits at local libraries. She has kits for both boys and girls, with things like deodorant, soap, loofahs, hairbrushes, toothbrushes and toothpaste inside.
And though the big 1,000 Ties events she usually hosts in both the Cleveland and Warrensville Heights school districts can’t happen because of COVID protocols, she is still hosting one key part — the Resource Row.
“Organizations from all over the city where they actually would bring different things for families — free things that they could actually benefit from,” Smith said.
Organizations like the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Linking Employment, Abilities, and Potential (LEAP) and the Greater Cleveland Regional Food Bank, which will be providing free lunch.
Smith is also hoping to hand out 2,000 hygiene kits.
Wade Park School is hosting the first Resource Row this Thursday.
“It was just a perfect match,” Dr. Lee Buddy Jr., the principal of Wade Park School, said.
Dr. Buddy Jr. said administrators talk to parents often about what resources they need, and those aligned with the ones Smith and 1,000 Ties were able to provide.
“We continue to look for the right partners that really are working thoughtfully with their family in mind, to really help them be successful,” Dr. Buddy Jr. said.
Rashid's daughter also attends Wade Park School and they’re regulars at 1,000 Ties events, supporting Smith like she supported them.
They’re also taking the resources they’ve learned to share them with their community.
“We are the community, so she's essentially pouring back into the community, even with lessons, even with information, because each one, teach one, you know,” Rashid said.
The 1,000 Ties Resource Row event will be held Thursday, Mar. 25 at Wade Park School gymnasium from 9 a.m. to 1p.m.
Another drive-thru event is being held at the Garrett Morgan School on Apr. 9 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
There is no registration required. However, anyone interested can register for more information from 1,000 Ties on its website.
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