(Photo courtesy of Rian Li)
Oak Park High School

Oak Park Chinese Community gives masks to local families

The Oak Park Chinese Community contributed 1,700 masks with approximately 250 families in the area during the week of April 17.

The Oak Park Chinese Community is a small group that takes pride in promoting and sharing the Chinese culture with their community.

The OPCC is a part of the Ventura County Chinese Community, and together with other members of the VCCC, they raised approximately $150,000, and were able to donate approximately 150,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to organizations, hospitals and individuals in need.

The organization decided to donate masks because they “have better access to masks, [and] it becomes the best way to help our neighbors in this crisis,” OPCC member Rian Li said in an email.

“The mask endeavor within Oak Park and [surrounding] neighborhoods started on March 16, when one of the recognized leaders of OPCC posted on Nextdoor asking the senior neighbors for their needs [in] face masks. As a result, she personally donated and distributed 600 masks to the senior community,“ Li said in an email.

According to Li, as the Coronavirus became less threatening in China, many OPCC members’ relatives in China sent masks to them, which they then began sharing with community members.

When government officials began encouraging masks for protection when leaving home, the OPCC realized that it was necessary to share the masks more broadly.

“A fundraiser was quickly organized in an OPCC WeChat group. It took only one and a half days to raise the fund for 1,200 masks for OP and Neighborhood distribution,” Li said in an email.

The OPCC was planning to distribute the masks at the Oak Park Library Parking lot over three days, expecting to reach a small number of community members.

“While we went out to help cover the needs of what supposed to be a ‘small’ number of families that could not find masks on the market, we were hit by the hard reality of a much bigger demand than we prepared to handle,” Li said in an email.

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As a result of the unexpected number of groups who came to claim them, the masks ran out far earlier.

“There was such an overwhelming demand for the masks at the [Oak Park] library this afternoon that all of the donated masks (originally planned for three days) plus the personal supplies from three Chinese households, total 1700 masks, were out within the first hour,” Li said in a statement.

The alarming number of community members who came requesting masks also led to changes in the delivery system for the products.

“It started from beautifully wrapped and labeled packs of 10 each, to 5 per brown bag, to 5 naked masks without [a] bag, until [there were] no more mask[s available]. Our sincere apologies to those of you who went home without any mask,” Li said in a statement.

According to Li, the OPCC was very sad to turn away community members looking for masks.

“Not being able to satisfy the needs of everyone who went to the drive-through distribution was sad, [but] it was much harder to say no to the requests of delivery, because the majority of those requests were from seniors and people with various pre-conditions or hardships,” Li said in an email.

For community members who were unable to attend the distribution, the OPCC had initially arranged an alternate solution.

“If you cannot make it to the [distribution], please respond to this message with [a] phone number and/or address. We will arrange delivery for you in the next few days,” Li said in a statement.

However, as a result of the unexpected amount of community members looking for masks, they were unable to carry out the deliveries.

“For those of you who have sent me Private Messages for mask delivery (it is also an alarmingly long list), most likely we won’t be able to satisfy your needs. Please accept our apologies as well,” Li said.

While the initial mask distribution was cut short, and some community members went home without masks, Li said OPCC members “rose to the challenge.”

“While I am putting these words together, 5 OPCC families are out there delivering masks, sharing their own household supply of masks with the families in need,” Li said in an email.

The families in the OPCC have since fulfilled 25 requests for delivery by sharing their own household supplies of masks.

According to Li, the masks are FDA cleared, and are intended for one set to be given to each family.

“The masks are packed in 10 per pack. If you need more than one pack for a good reason, please let the distributor know,” Li said in a statement.

The OPCC had utilized careful procedures to limit interaction of community members while retrieving the masks.

“The packs will be positioned at least 6 feet apart by the curb outside of the library. Please stop your car, pick up the pack, and drive away, with minimum interaction with others,” Li said in a statement. “In the case when there is a long line of cars, the distributor may drop the pack in your open car window. In any case, stay at least 6 feet apart from each other during pickup.”

According to Li, the mask distribution was not a result of any major fundraising campaign; just citizens hoping to make a difference.

The assistance the OPCC was able to provide came from a “feeling of responsibility, followed by a [call] and many responses from people who would like to make a small difference in their own way.”

According to Li, there were many other families who have contributed even more than her.

“I was simply the window to facilitate the process. There are families who have done far more than I did. [I am just] the speak person,” Li said in an email.