M-A junior Ricky Martin renews commitment to homeless at Opportunity Services Center amidst coronavirus pandemic

by Contributed Content on April 29, 2020

For as long as he can remember, Menlo-Atherton high school junior Ricky Martin (far right in top photo,  pictured with brother Finn and housemate Charlie) has felt called to serve the Bay Area’s large homeless population. As a youngster, his family would travel to San Francisco Zen Center on Sunday mornings to assemble brown bag lunches and then distribute them in the Tenderloin, bringing back enough to ensure the homeless  at Menlo Park City Hall, the Menlo Park train station, Opportunity Services Center, and Palo Alto transit center could get one too.

Back then, he wasn’t always confident being the one directly interfacing with the people he wanted to serve. Twelve years later, that changed. Before the shelter-in-place mandate was issued, Ricky got up early every Wednesday before school to provide tech support to the clients at Opportunity Services Center in Palo Alto, realizing the ability to navigate a smart phone, email, and computers is critical to accessing resources — housing, health care, and jobs. Ricky, who has an interest in technology, shares his love of technology with the OSC clients, whether it’s accessing their email or lending an ear.

When the COVID-19 lockdown began, Ricky was unable to provide his weekly tech support, but he reached out to OSC to find another way to help and found out that they were in need of bagged lunches, masks, and other supplies. Usually local restaurants and grocery stores donate food but that has been curtailed by COVID-19.

He immediately sprang into action, recalling his days as a youngster making rows and rows of sandwiches. He put out the word in the community via Nextdoor, wrote a blurb for his school newsletter, and contacted friends and family.

The response has been heartwarming, and he spends time every day between school zoom calls coordinating contributions and drop-offs from community members. In the first week, he provided 60 bagged lunches (including homemade cookies from a local family — pictured are Rowan and Teagan), 12 sturdy masks (hand sewn by M-A senior and Stanford-bound student, Bridget Patrick), dozens of bottles of shampoo and conditioner (donated by a family on Nextdoor), 80 bottles of water, and 158 pods of laundry detergent. He is expecting to ramp up to  100 masks given that he has found additional people willing to pitch in!

And a local business, Kasumisou Gallery saw his post on Nextdoor and is offering to contribute 90% of proceeds on Menlo-Atherton teak frames purchased through May 31st. Ricky plans to use any proceeds to support the making of more masks, particularly from local out-of-work community members, and purchase food and supplies. Note: The Gallery is also donating 40% of proceeds of sterling silver M-A spirit bracelets.

Ricky is scheduled to continue weekly drop-offs at OSC at least through May.

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