Micheltorena Street School entrance

Silver Lake -- In an effort to help struggling families during the COVID-19 outbreak, residents have founded "Hey Neighbor," a project where communities and schools come together to raise funds for those in need.

Together with many concerned neighbors, Hey Neighbor has helped organize nonprofits Friends of Micheltorena, Friends of Ivanhoe, Hunger Action LA and Silver Lake Neighborhood Council to help raise emergency funds to purchase grocery gift cards. So far, Hey Neighbor has helped raise more than $30,000 for more than 245 families, said Ben Cassorla, a member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and one of the founders of project. 

Families from Micheltorena, Mayberry, and Ivanhoe schools in the Silver Lake area have already benefited from the project.

It's up to each school to decide how to distribute the funds. Some schools like, Micheltorena Street Elementary, chose to distribute two different cards with two different forms of relief. For other schools, like Mayberry, families that qualified for free lunches will receive at least $100 on a grocery store card

"We think it's a great model that can work in any neighborhood," Cassorla said. "And hope that more get involved to help as many families as possible--particularly those put in the position of choosing between their jobs and childcare with the recent announcement of a virtual LAUSD this fall." 

"Our teachers really know the need of each student in their class," Micheltorena Elementary Principal Nichole Sakellarion said. "So we took our list of low income families and then went to our teachers and we were able to support the most neediest of the families."

Hey Neighbor started at Micheltorena Elementary. With the help of Principal Sakellarion and the school’s nonprofit, Friends of Micheltorena, they were able to raise $7,000 from private donations and $5,500 from the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. The money was distributed among 60 low-income families.

Sakellarion worked with the teachers to find the families that needed it the most.

"The beautiful thing about this project was that there was community helping community," Sakellarion said. "It's something small that our community could do for [the parents], but to them, it helped them a lot."

Hey Neighbor expanded to Mayberry and Ivanhoe elementary schools where the nonprofits raised enough for every single family in need.

At Mayberry, a local mom who took on the fundraising, tapped into over 60 donors, encouraging people to give small amounts in an effort to get even more people invested in the community.

"I think it's a fantastic example of neighborhoods coming together for their most vulnerable residents," Cassorla said.

Hey Neighbor has created a guide to help others start their own fundraisers. It can be made available by sending an email to neighbors.main@gmail.com.

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