On the Anniversary of George Floyd’s Death
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
Yesterday marked a year since the murder of George Floyd under the knees of police brutality.
His death brought on a reckoning and imperative to practice critical and crucial conversations on the historical and continued racist harm experienced by the black community and an intense examination of our current systems, norms, and bias that perpetuate racism and inequities.
As part of a national collective of community health centers, our mission is our community. At Share Our Selves we are committed to equality, systemic change, compassionate and empathetic leadership. Through these principles we will continue to work against inequality, systemic injustices, racism, and abuse of power.
We leave our imagination of a world without racism into living what that anti-racist world would be like. It begins with you, me, all of us. We must because of George Floyd and many others before and after him. Black Live Matter. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.
Chief Executive Officer
COSTA MESA, CA, – More than 280 people cruised over to the OC Fair & Event Center on Saturday, April 24th to take part in the first drive-through style event in the 28 year history of Share Our Selves (SOS) Wild & Crazy Taco Night.Read More
The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities has tragically seen an increase in targeted hate crimes and racist attacks, most recently are the six victims of Asian ethnicity, murdered in Atlanta. In our own Orange County community, 66 hate incidents have been documented in the last year and many more that are unreported. The most frequently reported hate crimes in Orange County were motivated by the race, ethnicity, and /or national origin of those targeted. These hate crimes exacerbated by anti-Asian rhetoric, blaming Asian people for the pandemic.
At Share Our Selves Community Health Center (SOS) we are disturbed and saddened by these recent events and prevalence of racist hate against the AAPI community. We do not tolerate racist and xenophobic language and actions that hurt and harm our targeted community members. We are a galvanized collective of community health centers, partners, and people refusing to be silent.
SOS has a mission that includes being an advocate for systemic change. To dismantle racist systems, we must learn, unlearn, and lift up and live in communities of equity and love. We fiercely and publicly stand against racism in all forms and are committed to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization and the communities we are a part of and serve.
Because our collective silence will protect no one.
Chief Executive Officer
*Image Source: https://caasf.org/stop-aapi-hate/Read More
While the pandemic continues to affect all of us, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are excited to share with you that SOS is working with the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) on securing COVID-19 vaccine inventory and best plans for the administration of the vaccine.
Our team is in the process of creating a safe dispersal plan for the inventory we receive in dedicated locations that maintain our low-COVID environment protocols. We are mapping out the best strategy for the administration of the vaccine with regards to eligibility, a patient-first emphasis, and a demographic focus on vulnerability in step with state and county guidelines. We will provide more information on how to schedule your vaccination appointment as soon as information is made available.
Obviously, you may have many questions. It goes without saying that the initial rollout of the vaccine nationwide has been less than smooth and the allotment of doses SOS receives is out of our control. We are navigating all obstacles in this unprecedented endeavor as we are in constant communication with OCHCA and other agencies to provide as clear a process as possible to our community with a focus on strategic and rapid dispersal of the doses we receive.
We recommend visiting OCHCA’s Vaccine Distribution page for detailed information on vaccination in Orange County.
This news brings great hope to our community, but we all must exhibit patience as news, inventory, and planning will be evolving day by day. We thank you for your diligence in continuing to wear masks, stay home, and practice social distancing. We look forward to keeping you up to date with the best information we have.
Chief Executive Officer
Reflections on the Violent Riot at our US Capitol and Our Commitment to Systemic Change
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It was deeply saddening yet not shocking witnessing, along with our entire country, the violence last week at our US capitol. At Share Our Selves, we believe in the right to free speech and to peaceful protest. And at the same time, we strongly condemn the violence committed and hate speech perpetuated in the name of our democracy.
That today we recognize and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is not lost on me. Dr. King took a moral position against injustice, armed with nonviolence to fight racism and white supremacy. We continue his legacy by standing against systemic injustices in the work we do as a community health center.
Share Our Selves was founded on the principles of service to fellow neighbors providing the most basic human needs. We stood up against racism and discrimination as we served migrants and people experiencing homelessness. We advocate for systemic change to ensure health equity for our communities and those we serve. Our work extends beyond our clinic four walls in our local, statewide, and national health care partnerships and collaboratives.
As one of our core values of JUSTICE, we have an ongoing commitment to advocate for change in those structures and systems that unjustly affect the vulnerable and disadvantaged. We will continue to build on this commitment in our long-term planning and partnerships because it is the right thing to do.
Chief Executive Officer
Early in the pandemic, prior to joining SOS, I recall leaving the room of a nursing home patient. I left her listless, drooling, and alone. Her death was imminent and as I left her room, I found myself in tears. People die frequently in nursing homes, but this death felt different. It was the first in a locked down facility—she would die alone.
It is crushing to think about all who have died without friends or family by their side. It is a human tragedy not distant from many of our lived realities. A life is to be celebrated and grieved in community, but community is what many of us lost this past year. Early in the pandemic, I recall feeling fearful of my patients. Who has COVID-19? Is it you? Is it me? My wife and I were expecting our son, now 9 months old, and we both feared that she would have to deliver alone, or worse, that she would get COVID-19, perhaps from me, and be separated from our son at birth. Every dark possibility was a possibility. Overnight the world changed into a place where friends were dangerous, celebrations were dangerous, and hugging your mother, partner, child, or grandparent could inflict real harm.
I’d like to think that 2020 has left me, and all of us, a bit wiser—that we take less for granted, and appreciate that love and community are what matters. If we are wiser, it is likely our grief that has left us clear-eyed about the world.
This morning, I asked our team in Costa Mesa what they hoped for in the new year. Most expressed grief over separation from loved ones and a desire to reunite without reservation. I want to do the same. My niece was born 4 days ago. I want to hold her. I want to sit close to my parents without the fear that I might harm them. I don’t want to fear the patient I am here to heal.
Yesterday, with the first 32 vaccines administered at Costa Mesa and even more at our sister clinics, we have taken another hopeful step towards what should be. I saw tears, which embody a year of pain and grief, but undoubtedly hope, and even joy, that things will be as they should be. But as we focus our hope on this vaccine, let me be clear about one thing—you have been as things should be. Throughout this past year, you have been unique expressions of love to each other, our patients, and our community—recognize the unique hope that each of you brings and continue to lean into that, as a pandemic-free world without this type of hope is still a dark one.
Dr. Edwin Kwon, Medical Director
SOS Community Health Clinic Costa Mesa
As the holidays approach and the year is winding down, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you. Amidst all the struggle, loss, and heartache of the past year, we’ve been amazed at the solidarity and resiliency our community has shown when facing such unprecedented times. From continuing to provide quality Whole Person Care and addressing COVID-19 on the front lines to most recently completing a socially distant SOS Adopt A Family Program for the 51st time, it has been encouraging to see, and humbling to receive, your support.
While the New Year brings many uncertainties, I believe it also brings hope. My personal hope is that you are able to celebrate the holidays with those you love even if it might look and feel very different this year. But whether in person, by phone, or even via Zoom, it is important to seize the opportunity to share in the joy of the holidays together. For right now, it’s a time to take a deep breath, a step back, and enjoy the season.
Thank you again from all of us at SOS, and happy holidays!
Chief Executive Officer
If you are interested, there is still time to make an impact before the end of the year.
As we recently held a socially distanced version of our SOS First In Family College Readiness Program, we were delighted to support a number of new high school grads who are the first in their families to be heading to college. We asked participants to submit their personal stories as applications for potential scholarships that were generously provided by an SOS donor. Here is one such story.
“For as long as I can remember, my mom has always stressed the importance of education and how it will take me far in life. Unable to afford an education at a young age, my mother was forced to give up on the idea of receiving further education. As an immigrant from Vietnam, my mom would sometimes tell me how willing she is to attend a school and study, but unfortunately, she is incapable of doing so. Busy from morning till evening, with only one day off and running a family to the best of her abilities, work steals her time. Both my immigrant parents came to America with the thought of starting anew and renewing their hope, but were unfortunately left to have low-paying jobs and little to no new opportunities. Because my parents are living with little chances to improve their life, I want to be the person to improve their lives and my own life.
Along with my mom, who is my number one supporter, my teachers, counselor, mentors, and other important figures in my life have expressed to me that I’ll go on to accomplish great things in the future. I used to doubt my achievements and viewed them as the results of actions that I simply took to satisfy my own needs. But then, I began to realize that I do have great potential and I want to continue proving their statements right. Constantly on the outlook for improvements and investing my time and efforts for a better future, I motivate myself by reminding myself how I already have more than enough and that countless opportunities are out there waiting for me.
Upon entering college, I plan to major in Business Administration with hopes of entering into the financial management field. To get anywhere near my goals and dreams, attending college would naturally be my next step. All of this used to seem distant and out of reach, but through endless support and my undying desire to succeed, college is now more close than ever and I want to make the best of it. Inching toward a better future, I want to prove to myself and those around me that you can go far, no matter where you begin. And so, fueled by passion and purpose, I will make my goals become my achievements.”Read More
HOW DO YOU FIGHT THE FATIGUE that is setting in during this pandemic? Your exhaustion is warranted. Your frustration is justified. Challenges we had imagined to be temporary are existing far longer than any of us expected. We are facing record unemployment, inequity in access to stabilizing resources, and millions without a safety net are becoming increasingly more vulnerable. This was not how any of us saw 2020 going.
While everything feels overwhelming, we must be reminded of the small steps and actions that we each can make to confront our exhaustion and lead to change. As we work the front lines battling COVID-19, we can assure you, at many times it has been a trying and taxing environment. But at the same time, the increasing need to improve and expand COVID testing in Orange County while ensuring we are still able to serve our patients in a safe and healthy environment has been our core motivation over the past few months.
So what is the key ingredient? Resiliency. Willful and intentional. For 50 years, Share Our Selves (SOS) has diligently served Orange County’s most vulnerable. Throughout our history, our mission has remained steadfast. But our history, as well as our future, is tethered to the collective engagement of our community. We’ve seen the momentum and results that come from passionate people coming together.
There might not be a more crucial time than now to consider how we work together to tackle the pressing issues we are facing. The unemployment rate in Orange County was at 13.9% in June, up from 2.9% at that same time last year. According to Share Our Selves CEO, Christy Ward, “The needs in our community are growing as we see an increase in unemployment and increasing numbers for not only our direct healthcare services, but in the number of families who have come to our food pantry.”
Our current environment requires something unique. To catalyze this moment, we have launched our RESTORE OC Movement. Our goal is to create opportunities for individuals, local businesses, students, political leaders, corporate partners, friends and families to play an active role in the restoration of Orange County. Everyone is capable of making a difference, but many feel disconnected from the avenues to do so. This inclusive initiative is intended to provide the education, tools, opportunities, and resources that empower people to make a tangible impact on the lives of those most affected by COVID-19.
- VOLUNTEER: As individuals or groups, we want to plug you in with opportunities to volunteer in a safe, low-COVID environment.
- ENGAGE: Follow us on social media and read our blog updates! We’ve also adopted digital tools that promote peer-to-peer fundraising. You are able to creatively engage your family, peers, and co-workers in fun ways to increase awareness, education, and funding.
- GIVE: For those who have the capacity to give financially during these trying times, your support is critical. Your generosity is an investment in vital and services in your community that results in a direct impact.
So how do we combat fatigue during this pandemic? Resiliency. Hope. Action. We admit, this is not necessarily easy. You have to acknowledge the realities of our community and determine if change is worth fighting for. You have to part ways with cynicism and embrace the possibility that systemic change is possible. You have to believe that you are capable of more than you imagine. You have to be willing to take that first step. For over 50 years, we have believed in the power of transformative change. Being part of the solution allows for self-transformation while we collectively provide access to resources and care. Together, we can RESTORE OC.Read More
Whether learning remotely or in a classroom, children must be equipped with the tools necessary to actively engage in learning. To that end, we were determined to ensure our annual SOS Back To School program would be able to exist this year.
On Saturday, August 15th, a handful of SOS staff and volunteers held our first-ever socially distanced Back To School Backpack Distribution. Rather than having parents and students line up to receive their backpacks, we created a drive-thru pick up line with SOS staff and leadership delivering backpacks full of essential school supplies directly into the trunks of family vehicles Altogether, we were able to provide 455 children backpacks.
Our volunteers were joined by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris who had been assisting the program for a few weeks leading up to the backpack distribution to ensure sufficient supplies were gathered and backpacks were assembled.
We could not be more grateful for our community supporters for making this important annual event possible. In addition to Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris, we could not have done this without the amazing support from Tilly’s, Marriott Southwest Sales, St. Christopher, Mater Dei, and our amazing donors. The collaborative efforts of our community made it a true success!Read More