By Juan Reyes
The Santa Cruz Warriors’ season ended more than seven months ago—cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic—but the NBA G League franchise has found different ways to score points in Santa Cruz County.
Team mascot Mav’Riks dropped off a special delivery of 2,000 masks to Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes in Watsonville on Oct. 12.
The Warriors distributed more than 7,000 masks in total, provided by the Muslim Coalition for America, to six community organizations serving vulnerable populations most affected by the novel coronavirus in Santa Cruz County. Other spots include the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Cruz County, Digital NEST at Cabrillo College in Watsonville, CASA of Santa Cruz County, and the United Way-Santa Cruz County.
Ashley Bridges, executive director at Loaves and Fishes, said the organization was grateful and excited that it was selected as a drop-off location for masks.
“I love when organizations partner with us, care about us and our clients and the people we serve,” Bridges said.
Bridges said Loaves and Fishes primarily serves two of the most vulnerable populations in the Pajaro Valley: farm workers and people who are experiencing homelessness. Thanks to the donation, she said, they now can replace dirty masks and provide new ones to people who can’t afford to purchase one.
“It’ll definitely help with the spread of Covid-19 and help with letting our clients know that we care about them,” she said.
Bridges said being able to have a mask supply for the demand has been a big deal for her personally. Loaves and Fishes is a small organization, so it relies on volunteers and donations to keep the place running.
“It means a lot to be able to give back, give what our clients need,” she said.
Founded in 1989 in response to the Loma Prieta Earthquake, Loaves and Fishes is a community-based organization dedicated to alleviating hunger among working poor families, farm workers, elderly, disabled and homeless individuals of the Pajaro Valley.
The Golden State Warriors partnered with the Muslim Coalition for America, a national non-partisan organization led by American Muslims, to support vulnerable communities and disadvantaged children around the Bay Area.
“It was no question that it was something we saw as a great collaboration and partnership,” said Yoyo Chan, Golden State Warriors vice president of government and community relations.
Chan said they’ve been working to distribute masks in Watsonville and other parts in Santa Cruz County for populations that have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. She said they heard there was a big need for personal protective equipment along with food.
“With all of the wildfires that have happened, we know that this is a very vulnerable time for the Santa Cruz County community and we’re just doing everything we can to make sure we can be there as neighbors,” Chan said.
Omar Qudrat, founder and chairman of the board for the Muslim Coalition for America, said it is undisputed that face masks slow down the spread of Covid-19. But coupling a state mandate to wear one can be an economic burden for disadvantaged families and the homeless population.
“We felt like everyone deserves a chance at being safer and our focus is our most vulnerable populations,” he said. “We want to make sure that anyone who wants to have a mask can access one regardless of having to deal with costs and so forth.”
Qudrat said Golden State’s involvement with communities and their impact missions are impressive. He said partnering with an NBA franchise was fortunate because the Warriors have the ability to execute an unprecedented social impact mission such as the masks distribution.
Quadrat also mentioned it is organizations such as Loaves and Fishes that are doing the hard work and have the access to the communities.
“Our goal is to deliver masks to the most vulnerable populations hit hard by Covid-19 in the Bay Area and surrounding,” he said.