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By Collin Breaux | Email: | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Rising senior students at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano founded a nonprofit organization called Community Aid & Relief (CARE) Initiative in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qiwen (Mellie) Wang, Emily Bush, and Matthew Marandola started the CARE Initiative and said it couldn’t have happened without the support from their other initial volunteers.

Qiwen (Mellie) Wang and Zechuan Rao handle grocery donations. Photo: Fang Xiang

“For the past three months, we have been operating with the help of around 50 high school student volunteers to provide free grocery delivery services to Orange County residents who are considered at-risk and advised not to leave their homes,” Bush said. “We have also worked on projects including putting together donation packages with sanitary and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) items to donate to low-income communities and local nonprofits.”

Emily Bush delivers CARE packages. Photo: Mellie Wang

So far, they have been able to serve more than 100 households in Orange County and expanded through partnerships with other organizations, including 211 Orange County, Fullerton Free, and Diamond Bar Sister City.

Wang said she sent free food to a high-risk, low-income senior citizen who lives alone and whose son died of COVID-19.

“I was sad to see his sorrow and loneliness, but meanwhile, he was grateful for our service and touched by what we’ve been doing for our community,” Wang said. “I felt a strong sense of satisfaction from actually getting to know people in critical need and helping them to the best of my ability.”

Marandola recalled his experiences delivering items for a deaf woman and her family.

“I had been learning sign language for about five years, and I really wanted to be able to form a more personal connection with this family and try to communicate with her using sign language when I made my delivery,” Marandola said. “It was a great learning experience for me, and I think it brightened up her day, too. It also reminded me of the importance of really taking time to talk to and assist people with disabilities, as they are not only in high-risk conditions, but may also have problems expressing their needs accurately.”

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Matthew Marandola handles a grocery donation. Photo: Matthew Marandola

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