Embracing our Community
Embracing Our Community

Cedars-Sinai Partners Provide COVID-19 Relief for Vulnerable Angelenos

Cedars-Sinai Partners Provide COVID-19 Relief for Vulnerable Angelenos

As the COVID-19 infection rate again rises in Los Angeles, so do the needs of those at greatest risk. Cedars-Sinai's community health teams are partnering with local organizations to provide emergency relief and emotional support for vulnerable individuals and families across L.A. Below are some of their latest efforts.

Share & Care Offers Emotional Support for Families

Through school-based art therapy groups and other services, the Cedars-Sinai Share & Care program has long been a source of emotional support in tough times for Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) families—and it still is today. The program has maintained a close connection with the community it serves during the pandemic by developing a number of online resources aimed at helping parents and children maintain their emotional equilibrium.

For example, Suzanne Silverstein, founding director of the Cedars-Sinai Psychological Trauma Center and Share & Care, recently developed a video in collaboration with LAUSD Board of Education Member Kelly Gonez (District 6) that offers tips on how to bring more kindness and gratitude into everyday life and build resiliency.

"This is a really stressful time for everyone," Silverstein says. "A crisis can bring out the worst or the best in each of us. Think of a time with your family that was really positive, where you all came together. Let's try to build on that."

Share & Care has also compiled a series of YouTube videos that includes other brief videos in which counselors offer suggestions on how to stay calm and "show yourself compassion." For example, Jonathan Vickburg, Share & Care mental health supervisor, combines magic tricks with tips on how children can use their five senses to calm down when they're feeling frustrated. 

Vickburg was also recently interviewed on KNX 1070 AM radio about mental health and wellbeing for kids during the pandemic.

COACH for Kids Helps Bike Club Prevent Hunger in Watts

The East Side Riders Bike Club has served more than 55,000 free breakfasts and lunches to Watts residents since mid-March. The Cedars-Sinai Coach for Kids team has been there every weekday—early enough to help cook pancakes and sausages and assemble meals before approaching the long line of cars to hand out breakfasts in packaged containers.

The COACH team members who help out at the corner of Compton Avenue and 103rd Street also offer COVID-19 educational materials and information about COACH's free drive-up immunization and well-child clinics.

John Jones III, the club's president and CEO, and his family founded the bike club in 2008 in South Central Los Angeles to draw youths away from gangs and drugs. When the pandemic hit, he knew job losses could quickly lead to hunger for many in his community and felt compelled to do something. 

"We have done pop-up breakfasts and lunches for a long time, and when I heard schools were closing, my first thought was, 'We have to feed these kids,'" Jones says. Soon after, the COACH for Kids program reached out to him.

"It's a blessing to have their help," Jones says. 

He is especially grateful for the education the team is providing on how to stay safe during the pandemic. "People are paying attention," he says.

Jones says the group has received enough donations to continue offering the free meals through the summer. 

COACH for Kids, a program of the Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center, has provided free healthcare to underserved children and families across L.A. for nearly three decades. The team has shifted its focus to COVID-19 relief over the past few months. Their efforts also include:

  • Offering free drive-up immunizations and well-child clinics weekly for children under 2 at the Manchester Avenue and Florence Avenue WIC Centers in South Los Angeles. Approximately 200 infants and toddlers have been immunized in the drive-up clinics since April.
  • Alongside partners across the Cedars-Sinai Health System, collaborating with the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to bring free medical services such as hypertension and diabetes care, wound treatment and dental screenings to emergency shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Healthy Habits 'Exercise in the Park' Program Goes Virtual

The popular summer Exercise in the Park program, offered by Cedars-Sinai Healthy Habits in the West Adams district of L.A., has developed a loyal—and increasingly fit—following since it started in 2012.

This summer, the free workouts led by Healthy Habits educators are still on. But with the help of technology, the location has shifted to the safety of home.

"The majority of our most active participants have access to Zoom via their phone or computer and they're comfortable using it," says Premere Session, associate director, Healthy Habits. "Most of our 50 regulars have signed up, and we welcome more. Over the years, we've seen participants get into the habit of exercising year-round. Some lose weight, and many tell us they feel better emotionally as well as physically."

For more information on the fitness program, contact healthyhabitsinfo@cshs.org. The program is an extension of the Healthy Habits workshops offered at Mid-City and Koreatown elementary schools in partnership with LAUSD. Although the workshops stopped with pandemic school closures in March, the team has kept in close touch with students and families. Below are some of the ways they are supporting the community:

  • Helps organize fresh produce and other items donated to Immanuel Presbyterian Church Food Pantry in Koreatown, which is now serving around 2,200 families a week—up from 600 before the pandemic.

    "It's very rewarding to be part of these food distribution programs, but it's heartbreaking to see the increased level of food insecurity L.A. is experiencing right now," Session says. "We bring reusable grocery bags to hand out. It seems like a small thing, but it's important because a lot of people walk to these sites and it helps them get their food home."
  • Created a series of YouTube videos featuring simple, nutritious snack recipes in English and Spanish, including colorful "veggie faces" made on whole wheat bread with avocado spread and cucumber, radish and carrot slices. A new recipe is added each week.