Families across the nation, including right here in Palm Beach County, have been hit hard financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some have lost jobs, others are struggling to put food on the table and pay bills.
A local nonprofit called Youth Empowered to Prosper is on a mission to help.
Typically, the group is a mentoring organization focused on making a lifelong impact on the lives of at-risk youths and developing next-generation leaders who are productive and responsible.
Once the pandemic hit, Lisa and Craig Cobb knew their community needed support more than ever.
“When COVID-19 hit, we saw a lot of people that were hungry in the community; it was a no-brainer for us. We said, ‘we have to start now,” Craig Cobb said, the founder of the nonprofit.
So they partnered with The United Way of Palm Beach County and other local agencies to switch gears a bit, turning their mentoring program into a feeding program.
“We started on April 11 and we’ve only been serving on a weekly basis and within that time period we’ve already been able to serve over 3,000 people and give out over 40,000 pounds of food,” said Executive Director, Lisa Cobb.
On Saturday mornings, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. they give out everything from frozen meat and fresh produce, to toiletries, baby food and even pet food.
The extra help comes as a huge relief for people who have fallen on hard times during the pandemic, like Crystal and Christina Joseph.
For the past two weeks, the newly-married couple has been living in a tent, in a field with no place to call home.
“I was working in the fast-food industry but it’s not enough business, so they can’t keep you if they don’t have the money, so they had to let me go,” Christina said.
Her wife has recently started a new job but it’s taking some time to get back on their feet.
“She’s the only one working and just started so we’re trying to rebuild ourselves and get ourselves out of the tent and off the streets.”
The couple says they found a glimmer of hope when they randomly walked by the Youth Empowered To Prosper building located in Lake Worth.
“We just came in here and asked for water and since then they’ve helped us in any way they can. They reach out to make sure that we’re okay. They just really care about people here,” Christina said.
Alexandra Alexis has also turned to the food pantry for help. She lost her job right before the pandemic and hasn’t been able to find a job since then.
“Because of the food that they were giving out, it helped us focus more on paying our bills than having to go to the grocery store and getting things that we needed,” she said.
Alexis now volunteers there on Saturday mornings to give back to the nonprofit that gave her so much hope during her family’s time of need.
“Sometimes we lose hope because of what is going on and when you come and you work and you volunteer in the food pantry or give help back to people it just makes them think, ‘okay, I can do this another day,’” she said.
The Cobbs say they plan to keep the food pantry going long after the pandemic is over and hope to eventually expand their services by providing housing to the homeless.
“It breaks my heart that when they leave, they don’t know where they’re going to lay their head,” Craig said. “We are going to continue plowing and plowing until we have nothing left to give.”
To volunteer or donate to Youth Empowered to Prosper, click here.
For more information on the nonprofit or how you can receive their assistance, click here.