In just two weeks, Gary Dillabough and Jeff Arrillaga led the charge to create San Jose Ship Kits Inc., a nonprofit that makes shelter-in-place (aka SHIP) kits to support people hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
The first 200-plus kits were distributed on Friday at the Unite Here! Local 19 building on Zanker Road in San Jose. Real estate investor Urban Community partnered with several local companies—including Voyager Craft Coffee, SP2 Communal Bar and Restaurant, Non Plus Ultra and Academic Coffee—to serve the community in a time of crisis.
“As a group we all came together to build a coalition and move this thing,” said Arrillaga, who along with Dillabough are the co-founders of Urban Community.
Tin Le, who owns SP2, credited Arrillaga and Dillabough for their leadership and organization to get a non-profit up and running in just two weeks.
“It’s really a testament to Gary and Jeff to take the initiative to form this coalition,” Le said. “Just in the first day of assembly, approximately 1,000 people are benefitting from these kits. That’s quite an accomplishment, and we’re really proud of this group that almost in record time they spun up a non-profit in two weeks.”
Each kit includes all the essential needs and then some, including food, medical supplies, educational material, sanitary products and toys, just to name a few items. The kits are mostly targeted to families-in-need with children under 12 years of age and hourly-wage earners, according to a Urban Community press release.
Urban Community and event management company Non Plus Ultra are using one of the properties they own—the Armory in downtown San Jose—as the temporary Ship Kit production facility. Le made it a point to emphasize that sanitation and social distancing practices are a top priority.
That includes the distribution aspect of the operation, which means families and individuals who are picking up the kits receive them without leaving their vehicle.
“We take every precaution that’s possible,” Le said. “Whether it’s masks, gloves, disinfectant on site, our safety protocols are pretty thorough.”
Arrillaga saw the need for Ship Kits because he and his colleagues noticed a lot of their friends who worked in the service industry such as restaurants, bars and coffee shops were being adversely affected by the pandemic. “The situation was getting more dire day by day,” he said. “But we had an unbelievable amount of resources and people we knew in the community who wanted to and could help.”
The overall operations include 15 people who are on call, along with dozens of volunteers who help pack, deliver and distribute the kits. Le expects distribution to ramp up in the days and weeks ahead, with the short-term goal to distribute 2,000 kits a week.
Ship Kits is partnering with Hunger at Home and Second Harvest Silicon Valley to handle the initial distribution. “As the logistics get in place, eventually we want to do our own distribution and directly impact the community that has been impacted most, especially the service industry people,” Le said.
Although Skip Kits’ immediate concern is addressing issues regarding the outbreak, they envision the organization morphing into something different in the future and having an impact long after the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
“It could evolve into something different with the focus still being on the community,” Le said. “Right now we’re just focusing on fighting the COVID-19 threat.”
Anyone looking to donate, volunteer or receive a kit can go to sjshipkits.com.