What began as a Facebook post quickly turned into a bustling organization, dedicated to helping those in need in the Santa Clarita Valley during the coronavirus pandemic.
Santa Clarita native Megan Martin saw the chaos brewing in early March as she shopped for groceries.
“People were in a frenzy and you could see the worry in everyone’s eyes,” Martin said. “I knew there would be people that couldn’t shop for themselves, like the elderly, (immunocompromised) or just people that don’t want to be around the chaos, so I decided, why not use a social media platform to bring attention to help out those in our community?”
Her original social media post mid-March stated that she’d like to make care packages, filled with food and other supplies, to deliver to those in need, and she received an outpouring of support, Martin said.
“My first few posts got hundreds of likes and comments, and I received hundreds of messages of volunteers and people that wanted to contribute,” she added.
In a matter of weeks, Martin collected nearly $5,000, all of which went to purchasing items to fill the care packages, which include much-needed items, such as produce, canned goods, non-perishable food items, toilet paper, diapers and personal goods.
Since then, Martin and her team of about 20 volunteers have delivered more than 100 care packages to families across the SCV, as well as to nonprofits that need supplies, including Single Mothers Outreach, Modern Support Services and Bridge to Home.
Martin also quickly realized the benefits of partnering with other organizations, like SCV Neighbors in Need, Love SCV, Help the Children and Santa Clarita Grocery, that could help to provide the supplies necessary to meet the demand.
Lesley Vennero, one of the co-founders of SCV Neighbors in Need, a Facebook group that quickly grew from 40 members to 1,400, agrees, adding, “I never want to duplicate efforts. If there’s already someone in the community that’s doing a good job, it’s silly to put our resources into duplicating what they’re already doing because we end up taking from their resources.”
That being said, Martin and Vennero quickly began working together to form what Martin considers an “amazing support system.”
“We were very much on the same page as far as what we wanted in the community, so it was just how could we help facilitate what she was already doing,” Vennero added.
Working together, Martin and Vennero began creating food drives in communities across the SCV, which have received a huge response and have helped to gather some much-needed supplies.
“In one way or another, we’re going to help … It needs to be a unified front. That’s the only way we’re gonna keep this as a long-standing effort, helping the community for years to come,” Martin added.
Now, SCV Neighbors in Need has grown to include more than 1,700 members, which Vennero attributes to the philanthropic community that is the SCV.
“Regardless of how overwhelming it can sometimes seem, this community never seems to falter,” she said.
Similarly, Rally Round SCV has “skyrocketed,” according to Martin, and the organization has continued to work with nonprofits as well as school districts to seek out more families in need, hosting drive-thru lunches for families in need, in addition to delivering care packages.
“That’s where we come in as a response team and give (packages) to those who need it most,” Martin said. “This is continuing to grow and it’s not going to stop because a lot of people are on their last dollars.”
That being said, Martin wants to challenge SCV residents to set up their own food drives, helping to provide the program with staples needed to fill the packages.
For Martin, it’s the community involvement that’s been the best part.
“There’s so many loving individuals in the SCV that are willing to help those in need and I hope it continues to last the next year or two, at least, for those recovering families,” Martin added. “It’s very rewarding, meeting all these loving, caring individuals that, I mean, they’re angels … And, most of the people we’re servicing, they’re in full-blown tears. It’s really heartwarming that we’re able to help them.”
Long-term, Martin hopes to turn Rally Round SCV into a nonprofit organization, as she believes the need will continue long after the COVID-19 pandemic.