In the darkest corner of a remote parking lot in Fairfax, Virginia, Sonny Kakar, his wife and three children bring beauty to our most vulnerable.
“I think the more you’ve been given the more that’s expected of you,” says Kakar.
Every Monday through Friday since the COVID crisis enveloped the nation, the families of two employees at Sevatec – a national security tech company – have lined up assembly-style inside the company’s food truck to make burritos. They’re averaging 450-500 a day.
A few years ago, Sevatec opened Sevatruck: a meals-on-wheels non-profit that feeds thousands of children a year at area Title 1 schools. Then, COVID hit.
Kakar says, “I feel like the last four and a half years have just been in preparation for something like this.”
In only two months, they’ve made 20,000 burritos: 2-3 times their normal output.
On this day, Nancy Lobo with The Child and Family Network Centers, a well-respected pre-school in Alexandria, picked up hundreds of free meals.
Lobo says, “For some people, a bag of food doesn’t seem like a lot but it is a lot to our families.”
This pre-school offers free and reduced tuition for families in crisis. Families now struggling even more.
Parent Nyarika Penick says, “I was recently laid off Monday.”
Penick’s four-year-old daughter goes to The Child and Family Network Centers. The facility has moved to online teaching but remains open for weekly grocery pick-ups.
“So, every Wednesday, we get some food and some snacks and school supplies. The kindness of the Alexandria and Northern Virginia community for our families who are the most vulnerable right now is incredible,” adds Penick.
Executive Director Jackie Didio says when staff asked parents what they need the most, they said food.
Penick says, “That’s amazing because one, burritos are delicious and two, people are very kind. You see how kind people are when bad things start to happen and people reach out and try to do whatever they can.”
But there’s more to Sevatec than a company and a truck. The word “Seva” in Sonny’s native Punjabi means selfless sacrifice, to serve a broader, higher purpose. A few years ago, Kakar heard a calling to give all he could since his company was flourishing.
That’s right. The guy behind the grill is the CEO.
Kakar says, “So this is a major tenet of not just my belief system, but I think a belief system that a lot of people share.”
A belief system Sonny Kakar and Jackie Didio hope endures long after this virus is, hopefully, contained.
Didio concludes, “We really do get to work together as a community now and kindness truly rises up through everything that’s going on.”
More from The Family and Child Network Centers on their mission:
In FY2021, CFNC will prepare up to 148 at-risk, four-year old children and their families to thrive in kindergarten (up to approximately 370 individuals).
CFNC operates eight preschool classrooms at five sites where 100% of our families live—the West End and Arlandria (the City of Alexandria’s poorest neighborhoods, with high concentrations of individuals who speak little to no English). These neighborhoods are amongst census tracts where Medically Underserved Populations live, as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration. We have temporarily transitioned to distance learning to continue offering uninterrupted services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike other local Early Childhood Education providers who target children eligible for Head Start, CFNC’s model is designed for low-income immigrant families who meet Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) eligibility requirements. The vast majority of our families live at or below 130% of poverty. Thus, the majority of CFNC children are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch by USDA standards, but ineligible for other free preschool programs. Without CFNC, our target families would have no viable alternative to send their children to preschool—let alone a quality bilingual option like CFNC with holistic health services.