HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — At 79 years old, Julieta Urmasa thought she'd experienced it all until the pandemic brought hardship to her family.
Her grandson who was helping her out couldn't find a full-time job on Guam at a time when 30,000-plus workers had their work hours cut or lost their job. In search of a brighter future, her grandson left for Washington in December, she said.
"It's too hard," the grandmother said, as she and her neighbor on Thursday morning patiently waited for their turn to get free food bags and boxes at a drive-thru food distribution in Barrigada.
A year into the pandemic, hundreds are still lining up for food assistance at distribution sites in the villages, including the one Thursday at the old Tiyan carnival grounds.
"Hopefully it lasts until everybody is back on their feet and people can get their jobs," Cindy Cruz, 57, said.
Cruz went to the drive-thru food distribution to help her brother, who was laid off from his job and then got evicted from his apartment in September.
"He's finding a job now. I pray everyday that he does so that he could take care of his family," Cruz said, adding that the expanded household of eight will share the food relief.
Cruz said she missed previous food distributions, and is thankful for the person who told her about Thursday's drive-thru.
"Thank you so much because this is very helpful to the families that are really in need, that are suffering from this crisis," she said.
Pete Aguon, 73, said every bit of help from anybody is a blessing for his household of five, which includes his grandchildren.
"This is good. You know, what we don't have in the house, if they give it to us, it helps. Everything counts nowadays. Every little thing counts," he said.
Long line of vehicles
Barrigada Vice Mayor Jesse Bautista, at the distribution site, said they were giving out up to 750 boxes of frozen goods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and 500 food bags of dry goods from the Guam Department of Education's federally funded The Emergency Food Assistance Program or TEFAP.
"We just have to come together and see what avenues we have so we can support the community," he said.
Residents formed a long line of vehicles, hours before the 9 a.m. start of distribution.
"With everything that's going on, this is good for the community and the entire island as it provides nutritious meals for them and so if they need it, they are more than welcome," Rowena Hernandez, an administrative assistant from the Barrigada Mayor's Office, said.
She said the Barrigada Mayor's Office is grateful for AmeriCorps Ayuda Para I Komunidat for helping with the food distribution.
Jimmy Tenorio was on site on Thursday. He was one of the coordinators for Ayuda Para I Komunidat, which also helped with the food distribution in Sinajana and Dededo over the past few days.
"There's still a lot of people unemployed and getting commodities for their families. It's also a way for mayors to help out and we help them get it done. Our motto is getting things done and that's what we're doing here," he said.
'Put your pride aside'
Carl Hagen, 48, never imagined he would need to fall in line to get food assistance but he's grateful that help is available because the pandemic cut his work hours.
"Don't be ashamed, put your pride aside, come and get your relief," he said, of those who are still hesitant to fall in a food distribution line in the midst of financial hardship.
Seven household members, he said, will share the food package.
"I'm just happy to get anything," he said as he and his partner Janel waited for their turn.
Mila Siquig, 69, said the pandemic cut into her family's income and limited her routine, including visiting her children because of health and safety concerns.
Lining up for food, she said, will help her household get by.
Mike Leon Guerrero, 68, said people should avail of the opportunity to get help, even if it means waiting in line for food relief.
"Every little bit helps and I have two grandkids," the Barrigada resident said. "My wife called me up and asked if I wanted to go to the distribution, so here I am."