Carmel Valley kindness: Nonprofit organization 92130 Cares provides support in many ways for local families in need

92130 Cares volunteers helped pack up food for Thanksgiving meals.
(Copyright of 92130 Cares)

There’s a quote Cheryl Hsu heard about the pandemic by Dave Hollis: “In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

“I constantly think about that,” said Hsu, a Carmel Valley resident.

During the pandemic, looking for a way to help her local community at Thanksgiving, Hsu posted a message on NextDoor looking for a local family to sponsor. That one simple post led to the formation of a grassroots nonprofit called 92130 Cares, a Thanksgiving adopt-a-family effort that has served 135 to 150 families for the last three years and a free farmers’ market that has run continuously every week since February 2021.

When she thinks about what is really important in life, the gift of time to volunteer, she never wants to go back to that pre-pandemic life.

“We have built such a great community organization for this zip code so I don’t want to go back to being so isolated and self-involved in our own little micro-worlds,” Hsu said.

The last few years have been admittedly “crazy” for Hsu, a whirlwind of generosity.

While Carmel Valley is considered an affluent community, there are over 700 low-income/affordable housing units in the 92130 zip code with no public transportation and no food bank or food pantry that services those in need. That first year of the Thanksgiving adopt a family effort, 135 families were connected and sponsored.

“For me that was incredible because it was a time of extreme isolation caused by the pandemic and yet despite that, we had neighbors reaching out to neighbors and making meaningful connections with each other,” Hsu said.

In 2021, they ran the Thanksgiving program in a similar way, benefiting 150 families in need. However this year, Hsu had to change things up in order to meet all the needs of not just the families but volunteers and donors too.

92130 Cares volunteers at work at Thanksgiving.
(Copyright of 92130 Cares)

“This year was definitely challenging because life is returning to normal, people are just busier, they are traveling again,” said Hsu, who runs 92130 Cares on the side of her full-time career as a corporate attorney.

This year 40 people signed up to do direct family sponsorships and 92130 Cares additionally held a fundraiser to support families that raised an incredible $10,000. The $10,000 was used to buy gift cards to distribute to local families.

“This is the power of our community,” she said of the people who, with no hesitation, stepped up to donate.

One donor sent a note sharing that when he was growing up his parents separated and he missed out on enjoying Thanksgiving—he donated $500 to provide holiday meals so that others wouldn’t have to experience what he did. “That kind of empathy…that was just really wonderful,” Hsu said.

Another part of the Thanksgiving outreach this year were the hampers. Grocery Outlet Mira Mesa owners Ngoc Vu and Thoa Nguyen donated over $2,000 worth of groceries including frozen turkeys, boxed mac and cheese, dinner rolls, chicken stock, canned corn, canned mushroom soup, stuffing and pumpkin pie— enough to make 50 hampers filled with food for families.

Jimbo’s in Del Mar Highlands Town Center donated cases of potatoes, organic yams and beautiful, fresh green beans, and Trader Joe’s in the Village of Pacific Highlands Ranch donated a case of frozen cheesecakes.

About 20 volunteers gathered at volunteer Liz Kubiak’s garage and packed the hampers to deliver to neighbors in need.

In total, 150 families were served with a Thanksgiving through 92130 Cares.

Last year, 92130 Cares expanded their efforts beyond Thanksgiving to host the free Sunday farmers’ market at four low-income housing communities in Carmel Valley. At the events, neighbors can come and take whatever they need.

Food is donated thanks to a partnership with the Del Mar and La Jolla Whole Foods Market, Jimbo’s and Trader Joe’s. Every week, Grocery Outlet Mira Mesa matches 92130 Cares’ $50 grocery purchase, allowing them to buy $100 worth of fresh fruit and produce for the community.

“This is a very critical food source for our families so that’s why we want to keep this program running,” Hsu said.

The effort requires about 40 volunteers every week and Teen Volunteers in Action, National Charity League, Girl Scouts and high school and middle school service clubs have been generously volunteering their time.

As Trader Joe’s and Jimbo’s also wanted to give food on Wednesdays, Hsu connected with the Pacific Southwest Community Development Corporation and 92130 Cares volunteers help with food rescue for the nonprofit.

Young 92130 Cares volunteers helped pack Thanksgiving donations.
(Copyright of 92130 Cares)

On Wednesdays, Trader Joe’s also donates leftover flower bouquets, which volunteers then deliver to Torrey Pines Senior Living. The seniors use them to brighten up their rooms or put together floral arrangements, “Every Wednesday when we drop them off everyone is so happy to receive them, everyone is smiling,” Hsu said.

Back in April, 92130 Cares also provided support to Afghan refugees who were being temporarily housed at the Homewood Suites in Carmel Valley. Volunteers connected with the eight families housed in the hotel and learned how great their needs were—they arrived with little but the clothing they were wearing and some left Afghanistan with just 30 minutes notice.

“We were all shocked that these Afghans would be placed in Carmel Valley where we don’t have any public transportation or access to the public services that refugees need,” Hsu said.

The 92130 Cares community donated 20 bikes to help them get around Carmel Valley, provided essential items like clothing and phones and helped get them jobs at local businesses. A medical team of volunteers helped them with medical needs, as there was an eight-month-old baby and three pregnant mothers in the group. Fleet Feet in the Village of Pacific Highlands Ranch donated running shoes for the high school and middle school-aged students; Torrey Hills Great Clips offered free haircuts.

92130 Cares even set up a transportation team where volunteers drove the refugees to a Nowruz festival at Seaport Village in the spring to celebrate the Persian New Year with other Afghans.

While many of the refugees moved out of the hotel after the 90 days of temporary housing provided by the government, one family of three Afghans remain in Carmel Valley, offered a home by 92130 Cares volunteers Doug Hoffman and Corinne Nareau.

If not for 92130 Cares, Hsu said she probably never would have met Doug or Corinne, or made any of the wonderful connections she has in the last few years. She is filled with gratitude and heartwarming stories of Carmel Valley kindness and generosity.

“The entire 92130 Cares effort has just been such a cool experience with so much unexpected joy, unexpected giving and unexpected impacts at every turn. I didn’t plan to start a nonprofit and the community is so giving with their time and resources,” Hsu said. “I want to say a huge thank you to the community that really made this happen. I’m just the facilitator. None of this would’ve happened without the generosity of our community and grocery store partners.”

“It is such a privilege I have to help other people in the community”

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