The Pasadena Community Foundation recently received what it described as an “invaluable work of art” in recognition of the Foundation’s early support for the “Mano a Mano” program managed by the Pasadena National Day laborers organization network ( NDLON) and its affiliate, the Pasadena Community Employment Center. The artwork honors a year of community partnerships and shared solidarity.
Artist and NDLON member Ramiro Vega presented his works to PCF President and CEO Jennifer DeVoll during the celebration of the first anniversary of Mano a Mano, a food distribution program that began in May. 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, the skilled laborers at the Employment Center were facing public health and unemployment crises, and Mano a Mano was established to meet the immediate needs of workers and their families. Tackling food insecurity is the main focus of the program, but it also helps clients with rental assistance and COVID-19 testing and vaccines.
Mano a Mano, which means ‘hand in hand’ in Spanish, was made possible through funding from the Pasadena Community Foundation and partnerships with faith communities and the LA Regional Food Bank. Program manager Nancy Torres stresses that for NDLON staff the concept of “Mano a Mano” is important because it emphasizes shared solidarity and minimizes the idea of charity.
“Families are receiving help not because they cannot take care of themselves, but because they are having a hard time with the pandemic. We share what we have and work together to help keep our extended family healthy, ”Torres said.
Artwork pays homage to the food of a community
For the anniversary celebration, Ramiro Vega was invited to create two works of art: one for PCF and one for another Full Program partner, Pasadena Covenant Church.
Vega, originally from Mexico City, is a self-taught artist who enjoys creating art for relaxation. With an art reminiscent of the intricate designs of the Tournament of Roses Parade floats, the work uses seeds, fibers and grains to create the Mano a Mano logo and the spirit of solidarity that underlies the daily work of the program.
“I like working with seeds and natural things, but I also work with paint and wood. The art I created for Mano for Mano was very specific because I wanted to find something to represent the important work of this program, ”said Vega. “To me, the basket and the food represent the nutritious food NDLON gives to me and to people.”
Vega created the over the course of a month, working carefully to meet her high standards.
“I am a detail-oriented person (in) work and art. When I work I pride myself on a high level of attention and detail in my work. When I come home and create art, I also pride myself on providing a high level of attention to detail. I could only work in small amounts of time to make sure everything was done right.
As a member of NDLON for 22 years, Vega saw the artwork as a way to give back to an organization that enabled him to support his family of four and protected his dignity and rights by as a daily worker.
“More than anything, NDLON helped me find work. Thanks to this place, I have the possibility to move forward. Thanks to this work, I am able to meet my basic needs and those of my family. The Job Center protects us. People who hire workers have great confidence in their reliability and at the same time we are protected because the Job Center ensures that we are registered and paid fairly.
As needs increase, lend a helping hand
According to program manager Nancy Torres, since May 2020, Mano a Mano has helped 7,500 families with food baskets with on-site distributions, drive-thru and home deliveries. And although businesses are reopening and vaccines are available, Torres says the need continues to increase in NDLON: 20 more families signed up for food assistance in June, and 27 families did so in May.
The program is also in desperate need of better transportation.
“We use 200 hours of volunteer labor for each food distribution – these are volunteers using their own vehicles. Sometimes I don’t have enough money to pay for their gasoline. We really need our own transportation and have started a campaign to raise $ 50,000 to buy a van to help us with our food deliveries.
There are two ways that people in the Pasadena area can help Mano a Mano continue their work:
- Help NDLON raise funds to buy a van with a Don.
- Visit Grocery Outlet on North Lake Avenue in Altadena to participate in the Independence from Hunger campaign, which runs through July and supports Mano a Mano
To learn more, visit Pasadena Community Foundation here.