Project Full Bellies was born out of the indispensable desire to help others in need. It is the same desire that makes the world go round and keeps the word “humanity” part of our everyday vocabulary. As a family and friends run project, PFB collects donations throughout the year and uses one hundred percent of the funds to make care packages for the homeless of Los Angeles, particularly those in Skid Row. We distribute the care packages once a year, usually the Saturday before Christmas, and we are very happy to report that PFB has become a recurrent and expected presence in Skid Row.
Although our initial focus was food-based, it became apparent that attempting to store hundreds of sandwiches in an average home refrigerator in preparation for distribution was both silly and impossible. For that reason, combined with the fact that Los Angeles does actually reach quite cold temperatures during the winter (contrary to popular Baywatch thought), the decision was made to create care packages that consist of non-perishable food items, as well as socks and gloves. We want to be able to give something that has a longer shelf life than a sandwich but is equally desirable. Hence, over the last couple of years, we have also begun to collect blankets, sweaters, pants, shoes, scarves, and anything else that could possibly provide some warmth and comfort on a cold night in Skid Row.
Throughout the past years of operating PFB, the reactions we have received from people have been heartfelt and motivating; we continue to be inspired by people’s extraordinary desire to help others less fortunate. Even strangers whom we’ve met in line while buying items to distribute are touched by the ideology of PFB and some have even been moved to tears. Yet, it has also been very surprising to discover how many people with this desire to help do not know exactly how to go about it. It seems that many people, although they have good intentions, are generally prevented from helping because of a lack of available resources and opportunities, or even thinking they must be a part of a religious organization to participate in a project such as PFB. That is why it was important when starting PFB that we create an organization offering several different means of contributing, regardless of religious, political, or any other views. With PFB, everyone and anyone who wants to help is provided with a way in which they can fulfill that desire—donating money or clothes, shopping for items to distribute, preparing the care packages, and/or actual distribution. The hope is that PFB facilitates an easy, accessible outlet for generosity to flourish regardless of one’s financial situation, personal views, and/or busy schedule.
We appreciate all support in our endeavor to alleviate the homeless situation of Los Angeles and in restoring humanity and respectability to a social group whose condition has inevitably and unfortunately seen a diminishment of it. Thank you very, very much!
Having volunteered previously in San Diego community soup kitchens, Melina Madrigal wanted to continue working with the homeless when she moved back to her hometown of Los Angeles in January of 2005. Although she had immensely enjoyed her experiences collaborating with various charitable organizations in San Diego, she desired to be a part of a group that helped others without promoting a religious and/or political view. After researching to find such a group, Melina found herself unsatisfied with the organizations then in operation. Yet, rather than relent and join a group whose views she did not entirely support, she decided to create her own organization to help the homeless – one that was founded on the ideals of being generous, open-minded, and of a sincere spirit. Thus, in the winter of 2005, Project Full Bellies was born.
In the first year of operation, PFB raised enough funds to create over 300 sack lunches, all of which were distributed in the Santa Monica area. Like any fledgling organization, the first year consisted of Melina and a few friends and family members. Yet, by the second year, more family members and friends, as well as strangers, had become aware of PFB and the impact we were making. With this growth, PFB was able to make over 500 bags in 2006. While most of these bags were distributed in the Santa Monica area, the group decided to distribute some of the care packages to those on Skid Row as well.
By 2007, PFB had become an annual event that family and friends looked forward to participating in. As more people became aware of PFB’s work, the donations continued to grow. That year, PFB was not only able to create over 650 bags, but also received 7 large containers full of clothing articles. With all of these donations, PFB was able to provide some warmth and comfort to those who live on Skid Row.
In that same year, PFB experienced some new changes and innovations. After talking to the homeless about their many different issues, it became apparent that there was a great need for clothing items. By providing the homeless with clothes, PFB would be able to help them stay warm and dry – important elements needed to prevent getting sick from exposure to the cold. Therefore, it was decided that funds would be allocated toward the provision of new socks and gloves. Similarly, we decided that we would begin to collect and distribute second-hand clothing. As we began to promote these changes to our volunteers, we were approached by a local high school that desired to join our effort to fight the harsh conditions faced by the homeless. We were and continue to be very grateful to the great work and support the high school teachers and students have offered us.
In 2008, over 1,200 gallon-size Ziploc bags filled with socks, gloves, food, and a juice box were donated to the Skid Row community. On top of that, PFB was able to collect and donate 13 large containers filled with clothes, blankets, and shoes. One container was filled with brand new, homemade scarves that had been made by some of our volunteers. It was also the first year that we decided to substitute brown sack bags for closeable, resealable Ziploc bags since they provide more utility and prolonged usage. We are continually seeking ways to evolve and improve our means of operation in order to provide the maximum aid possible to the homeless community.
Although still a young organization, we are very grateful to report each year has seen an increase in the amount of items to be distributed, and are equally happy to announce the continual increase in number of volunteers. Generosity can be quite infectious and it has indeed been wonderful seeing new volunteers affected as they distribute care packages to the homeless and engage them in conversation. There is a stigma against the homeless that has unfortunately placed a wall between them and the rest of the world, but it is our aim to tear down that wall one brick at a time and it couldn't please us more to do so. Thank you for your interest in Project Full Bellies.
Project Full Bellies continues to grow with the support of people like you.
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Project Full Bellies is a non-incorporated organization and cannot offer a tax deduction for any amount of donation given.
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