COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The line of cars stretched around the block and backed up traffic on Sullivant Avenue, according to organizers of the pop-up food drive on the west side of Columbus Friday.
Simakovsky Law partnered with several other organizations including Michoacana Mexican Market, Invictus Fitness, Flores Landscaping, El Barco Mexican Restaurant, Ohio Latino TV, Laguna Mexican Street Food and U.U.J.O. to provide a bag of food to each family coming by the pick-up site. The bags contained rice, beans, tortillas from Koko Tortillas, where the pop-up was set up.
The firm was prepared to distribute 250 bags of food Friday. But when they showed up just before 8:00 a.m. to begin setting up so they could start giving out food at 9:00 a.m., they found many people already waiting.
Columbus police showed up to help try to keep traffic flowing and assist in anyway they could. In the meantime, the volunteer crew started handing out bag after bag.
Lauren Powers was in charge of operation of the food drive and she says, for a brief moment, a feeling of panic struck her.
“We ran out of 250 bags before 9:00,” Power said.
With no food left and many people waiting, they rushed to get more. They couldn’t have the cars blocking the street while they waited, so they had to tell people to give them a few minutes and come back for a bag of food.
Inna Simakovsky made three trips to Michoacana Mexican Market on Friday, each time returning with more food for the drive.
“Very few people are providing servies on the west side so we decided to do this pop-up,” explained Simakovsky. “We did it a couple of weeks ago on the north side. Now, we’re here and it’s apparent that there is an incredible need.”
With the Stay At Home Order in effect for at least another week for non-essential businesses, many immigrants have found themselves without work and without money.
“It’s impacting the refugee, the immigrant, and the undocumented community and it’s time that we step up,” said Simakovsky, an immigrant attorney.
At one time, Simakovsky was a refugee as well. She was a little girl when she came to the U.S. from former Soviet Russia. Now, she fights for the rights of other refugees and immigrants but that fight is on hold as a result of the pandemic.
She can’t see her clients, or argue their cases, so instead she and her firm are trying to see to the needs of the immigrant community any way they can.
Koki Garcia is a long-time ally to Simakovsky and was helping stuff bags with freshly made tortillas from her tortilla business.
“I think it’s a really difficult thing to say someone deserves more than another person,” said Garcia. “I think that it’s very important that all of us get what we need.”
Her business has been on Sullivant Avenue for 20 years. Her wish is that everyone sees what was accomplished on Friday as a call to action.
“I hope that this will help other people also show kindness, to look around you and just see where you can possibly help out,” said Garcia. “Even if it’s with something very small, it will be very helpful right now.”
There is talk of holding another pop-up food drive on the east side of Columbus in the near future focusing on the Somali community. Simakovsky says organizing these pop-up food drives is teaching her and all of her volunteers many things.
“We are teachers, we are community members, we are lawyers, this is not what we do,” said Simakovsky. “I think what we learned from this is who can we partner with to reach more people. I think that when you make partnerships, you are able to do more.”