Kids Helping Kids: South Florida youth-led program helps feed children in need

(WSVN) - One bright spot in the COVID crisis is how so many people have come together to support each other. As Brian Entin reports, that includes a group of “Kids Helping Kids.”

Estella Rodriguez: “Kids need breakfast, meat, proteins.”

Every week, in this Bay Harbor Islands neighborhood, kids and parents come together to put together groceries for families with special needs children.

Vittoria Padilla, Kids Helping Kids Succeed: “Cereal, rice, vegetables — for the babies, we bring diapers and baby wipes ’cause those are expensive.”

Victoria Valente, Kids Helping Kids Succeed: “I think it’s a really good thing to do ’cause it helps the kids who, like, need the food.”

Their group is called Kids Helping Kids Succeed, and it was founded in 2012 by Debbie Padilla.

Debbie Padilla: “There is people in need here.”

Kids Helping Kids Succeed is known for its youth-led programs like holiday toy drives, mentoring programs and monthly birthday parties for kids in shelters.

Now, the group is focusing on people hurt by the pandemic.

Debbie Padilla, Kids Helping Kids Succeed: “Since COVID started, we saw the need of helping people that cannot get to the free meal that they give at school.”

Since COVID struck the U.S., parents have lost jobs and more.

Estella Rodriguez, volunteer: “They have lost their insurance. These are families that are dealing with a lot of challenges in the house. They take care of kids who are dependent.”

The parents and kids fill up boxes, each one containing a week’s worth of food and supplies, catered to the ages and needs of the children in the household. Everything is donated.

Estella Rodriguez: “We go to neighborhoods that I would never imagine that there was someone in that house who needed food. You just don’t know.”

Volunteers start bright and early every Tuesday to deliver 100 boxes to people in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Zalmi Duchman, volunteer: “I’m going to Fort Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes area.”

While some volunteers head north, Debbie heads south to Kendall.

Katia Rivera’s husband lost his job when the virus hit, and their car was repossessed. Their 13-month-old daughter Angelina has Down syndrome.

Katia Rivera, receives groceries (translated): “The help that the organization gives us here is very good. It’s the best thing that has happened to us in these times because they bring it to your door.”

Katia’s family has been receiving the boxes since the pandemic began.

Katia Rivera (translated): “Thankfully, because of this, we are OK in this situation.”

Kids Helping Kids Succeed partners with social workers from local schools to find out just who is in need. Now, they have a waiting list of more than 200 families.

Debbie Padilla: “We see more and more often when we get there on Tuesday morning, some of the kids are outside waiting for the box because they already run out of food inside the house.”

If a parent is lucky enough to return to work, that family is phased out of the program, and the next family on the list begins receiving the food.

Victoria Valente: “It makes me feel good of myself because it’s helping people.”

Thanks to them, parents get a much needed helping hand, and the kids learn they can really make a difference during a time when the future is uncertain.

If you would like to learn more about Kids Helping Kids Succeed, click on the links below.

Kids Helping Kids Succeed’s website

Kids Helping Kids Succeed’s Facebook page

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