When faced with injustice that affects our communities, we often ask ourselves in a tone of defeat; “What can one person really do to ensure positive change for the masses?” This was never the question for one woman, Zina Washington, Help Me Help You (HMHY) Executive Director. From an early age she knew her purpose and was driven to overcome the challenges of how to eventually run a successful non-profit dedicated to “Serving the Underserved” and improving the lives of thousands.
Born in Los Angeles, CA to a family of entrepreneurs (father and grandfather) and mother who was passionate about feeding those in need; Zina grew up with the ingredients of great leadership, and the determination to help her fellow neighbors. “My mother told me that if she ever had the opportunity to start her own business, she would start a business that feed people and this is what drives me to this day”, said Zina. Knowing her purpose, she became determined and focused on how see would most effectively feed people in her community.
As a resident of Long Beach, Zina knew she had to help those in her hometown first. Although America is considered an affluent country and Long Beach is the 7th most populated city in California with the most ethnically diverse community in the nation; at least 1 in 5 people live in poverty and 55% of children come from Low Income families. Over 40% of the Long Beach population live in economic hardship which means they do not have enough income to meet their basic needs for food, housing, childcare, transportation, and other essential needs.
With the purpose, determination, and realization where she would focus to improve the lives of those in her community, Zina was on a journey to discover how. Armed with the skills sets from a University education and experience working for charities in health fields, Zina started her own non-profit consultancy dedicated to helping establish successful non-profits. This is where she met and helped client, Jerome Washington, HMHY Founder. “We both had the same passion to feed individuals in our community as well as provide them with the resources to heal and become self-sufficient, so we decided to join forces”, said Zina.
Seventeen years on and Zina still maintains an unstoppable determination and tireless hands-on approach from running the daily activities of HMHY to paving the way to ensuring its growth and success via donations, grants, and expansion of services. Initially HMHY offered weekly food pantry services and financial literacy classes to the homeless. As a result of its success and increasing community needs, HMHY has grown to forge integral community partnerships and expand its services to provide targeted solutions with a nationwide reach.
HMHY now serves more than 30,000 residents annually to include homeless, seniors, persons with disabilities, single mothers, veterans, youth, and those in need. Despite, the economic fallout from the COVID pandemic, HMHY programs continue to provide more residents with access to essential resources like nutritious food, public benefits, economic security, and overall well-being.
HMHY Recently Expanded Services Include:
1. Food Pantries - each week, more than 2,000 children and families receive nutritious groceries via school and community Long Beach locations.
2. Long Beach Food Pantry Delivery – provides 500 home deliveries per week to those most impacted by COVID-19 to include seniors and persons with disabilities.
3. Benefits Enrollment Services – expert enrollment assistance for CalFresh, MediCal, GR, and Social Security benefits. HMHY Benefits Advocates maintain a record 80% success rate of social security claims awarded vs. the average 40% success rate of those who file independently.
Zina, doesn’t see herself as having any super-hero qualities, instead she humbly attributes the continued success of HMHY to her dedicated team members who care and prioritize their clients as they would their family. She is also grateful for the on-going support of sponsors, donors and volunteers that allow HMHY to continue to effectively service increasing community needs. “We are all Wonder-Women! When we support one-another we can make a difference to an individual and our community”, said Zina.