Flashback Fridays | MEND

Welcome to Flashback Fridays.  We know the cool kids talk about Throwback Thursdays, but we like flashbacks.  They make us think of bad, ahem, great 80’s songs and questionable haircuts. Be sure to check in on Fridays to hear about causes we’ve visited in the past and what they’re up to now.  Oh, and it’s also your chance to see some sweet flashback photos of our favorite non-profit leaders.

Enter: Luke Ippoliti.
Food Bank Assistant Director, MEND

Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND) was one of the first causes we visited on the Do Good Bus. It was pretty much love at first sight.  The work they’re doing for the San Fernando Valley community is inspiring, to say the least.

We caught back up with Luke recently and here’s what he had to say:

What is MEND?
MEND is a holistic, volunteer-driven, poverty relief org, that is dedicated to breaking the bonds of poverty by providing essential human needs and creating pathways to self-reliance.  That mission takes the form of providing emergency food, clothing, medical, dental, vision, and education and training services to 38,000 individuals every month at our centers in Pacoima.  MEND works with low-income families that are experiencing poverty due to myriad reasons, unemployment, underemployment, disabilities, illnesses, low fixed incomes, lack of a living wage, lack of education, to name a few.  They were the first to feel the effects of the recession, and will be the last to feel the recovery.  They work in the service industries that this city couldn’t run without, but are often paid wages that are too low to live off of.  They are living in communities of hyper-concentrated poverty, where as many as 40% of their neighbors may also be living in poverty.  They are families living in scarcity, striving to have enough.

How did you first get involved with MEND?
A series of serendipitous events- but that’s the long version.  The short version is that 17 months as a disaster relief volunteer in Post-Katrina Louisiana, surrounded by passionate, capable people, shaped my ideal of what it is to be a useful person in this world, and showed me what’s possible when volunteers from every walk of life join in solidarity with a community in need to work together towards realizing that community’s vision of itself.  That experience changed the direction of my life, ultimately leading me to MEND, where I have a chance to apply those lessons everyday (if I do my job right).

What’s your favorite part of having the Do Good Bus visit MEND?
Every part.  But if I had to pick I’d say the spark, the enthusiasm, the curiosity, the sincerity, the joy, the effort, of the volunteers.  This place shakes for days after they leave from the impact they make.  They always manage to raise the bar of what’s possible.

How can people get involved?
Go to www.mendpoverty.org, and click on Get Involved.

What are you working on specifically for 2013?
Our biggest goal for this year is to build 72 food producing gardens at the homes of area families.  Families that want to empower themselves to achieve greater food security, health and well-being.  Almost as important as the building of the gardens, and the providing of the plants, will be the growing of community among those families, our facilitating the sharing of knowledge, food, and experience, and the connections that will follow.  We’re ecstatic about the opportunity.  PS- We’re going to need some help!

What do you flashback to when you see this photo of yourself?
I flashback to being an uncivilized, half-feral child running around on the side of the Short Hill Mountain in Virginia, climbing trees and making forts, and not cleaning up too well for school pictures, mostly because I was always missing a tooth or two.