Cypress Park -- For three years, volunteers from Divine Saviour Roman Catholic Church have been waking up early on Thursdays to make ingredients for burritos, then gathering to heat up the tortillas, roll the burritos and deliver them to homeless folks in Cypress Park and Lincoln Heights.

Why do they keep doing it? Each person seems to have a different reason, but it all boils down to wanting to do something, anything to help ease the suffering they see on the streets.

"I once told God, send me a signal if you want me to continue doing this and suddenly someone approached me and accepted the food, and told me, ‘The work that you do for us gives us hope and I wanted to say thank you and…God sent me to give you thanks,’ " said Trini Vega, a volunteer.

Angie Austria (left) and Maria Isabel Velasco (right) give food to a man named Enrique (Amairani Hernandez_UT).jpg

Angie Austria (left) and Maria Isabel Velasco (right) give food to a man named Enrique

The food deliveries started when Maria Martinez decided she wanted to do something to help people experiencing homelessness and suffering on the streets.

The volunteers meet at the church to make two types of burritos, bean and cheese, and burritos with pork, rice, and beans.

María Isabel Velasco said that she wakes up a little earlier than the rest.

"I wake up at 7 in the morning to bring some of the food," she said. "This time, I cooked the meat at night and only warmed it up in the morning."

Bags with donated pastries from Porto's bakery (Amairani Hernandez_UT).jpg

Bags with donated pastries from Porto's bakery

In addition to the burritos, they also get water bottles and pastries from Porto’s, which donates the baked goods to the church on Thursdays so they can be delivered to people experiencing homelessness on the same day. The church also collaborates with the Divine Saviour Catholic Parish & Elementary School.

“The children from the school volunteer to put the baked goods in the bags. They also make little notes and bring little hygiene kits and give them to the homeless and the [kids] love it,” said Angie Austria, a volunteer.

Most of the volunteers have been volunteering since the organization started. Vega, who is a regular, drives Austria and Velasco around the city delivering the burritos. They manage to fit everything in the beat up, little four-door Nissan Sentra: burritos, bags, water bottles, pastries, and sometimes clothes to give to the homeless.

Andres Veano, a frequent volunteer, makes a burritos de carne de puerco. (Amairani Hernandez_UT).jpg

Andres Veano, a frequent volunteer, makes a burrito de carne de puerco

The volunteers said they end up building relationships with some of the homeless folks they meet. For instance, Jaime Sosa, who is one of the regular people they see, is originally from Nayarit, Mexico. He said likes to recycle and earn a little money to get by. You can usually find him on North Broadway in Lincoln Heights.

"The food helps a lot," said Sosa. "The work [the volunteers] do is a good example for everyone else."

When Austria delivered food to Sosa, he told her about his homeless friend who had passed away four days ago, from what he said appeared to be malnutrition and possibly alcoholism. His voice cracking, he said he found out when he visited a recycling plant to sell his bottles.

Vega said that many homeless people she sees have lived on the streets for a long time. She said that he and the other volunteers see people with the same clothes, hungry, and sometimes sick.

“We see these people living on the streets suffering and us who have it all we should never complain, because they truly suffer. We keep doing this because the homeless people are so thankful to have us and God bless them,” said Vega.

Portrait of Jaime Sosa as he smiles and thanks a volunteer for the food (Amairani Hernandez_UT).j.jpg

Portrait of Jaime Sosa after receiving food from volunteers

Amairani Hernandez is a reporter with UT Community News, which is produced by Cal State L.A. journalism students.

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