Southern Marin food drive raises $76K for school families

A small food drive that started in Marin City to help school families during the coronavirus crisis has swelled in scope in just three weeks.

Originally delivering bags of food to about 80 families weekly whose children attend Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Marin City, the community effort now plans to serve about 140 families — including those who have kids at Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito. The families are mostly in Marin City, but also in Mill Valley, San Rafael and Novato.

“Our unified canned food drive, now named ‘Bags of Love,’ has raised $76K to date,” said David Finnane, principal of Bayside MLK, in an email. “We’re working side-by-side to serve BMLK and WCA families in need.”

Emily Cox, head of school at Willow Creek, said interest has been high since word got out about the project. She said the school used the SignUpGenius website to manage the influx of volunteers.

She and the volunteer team is contacting school families to assemble a list of home deliveries to start within about two weeks.

“This thing has exploded — all for the good,” Finnane said. “This includes folks who shop for food, organize the food for bagging, bag the food, hand out and deliver the bags, and manage the finances.”

In all, Finnane said, about 35 volunteers are now involved. That’s compared to the small trio that launched the project in late March — Finnane, Bayside MLK teacher Rich Friedman and San Anselmo resident Julie Neil.

“There are a lot of moving pieces in order to ensure this goes well on a weekly basis,” Finnane added. “Felecia Gaston and Performing Stars have also come forward with help from her staff. People have been incredibly generous with both time and money.”

He credited the Southern Marin organization Bridge the Gap College Prep with helping “Bags of Love” achieve nonprofit status so it can accept tax-deductible donations. In addition, Andy Bachich, owner of Andy’s Local Market, joined the effort by accepting bulk food purchases at cost, according to Finnane.

Finnane said the volunteers, who plan to continue efforts through mid-August, see the project as a model for the future unification of Bayside MLK, a traditional public school under the Sausalito Marin City School District, and Willow Creek, a charter school authorized by the district. Prior to the virus crisis, the unification process has been bumpy amid legal and financial conflicts.

“The beautiful thing about our ‘Bags of Love’ food drive is that the need we’re working to fill just naturally washes away any disagreements or history between the schools or within the two communities,” Finnane said. “Our mutual focus has been on helping those in need.”

“Honestly, no one cares what school you work at or where your kids go to school,” he added. “We’re just working together with a spirit of kindness and service. It’s been incredibly gratifying and is hopefully a model for what we can do together in a unified manner. ”

Cox agreed.

“What many people don’t realize is the level of collaboration that has existed between the two schools for years,” she said. “I think that this unprecedented crisis has just solidified the fact that we all are willing to come together and do whatever it takes to care for all of our children and families.”

Donations can be made online at bit.ly/2wuR6Fa.

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