On Tuesday, September 29, Topanga New Times contributor Saori Wall socially-distanced met with volunteers at Pine Tree Circle as grocery boxes of non-perishable food items were distributed. The boxes are made possible by Los Angeles County Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office via the LA Regional Food Bank, and reinforced by community members and organizations throughout the canyon: TCEP, the Topanga Community Center, and the Canyon Sages to name a few. One in particular, The Topanga Love Project, is spearheaded by TCC member Kristina Rocco Levy.

The boxes are being stored at Pine Tree Circle, and many volunteers worked in searing heat with ear to ear grins, tucked beneath their mask. The message that resonated throughout was clear: ‘How can we keep this offering going through the winter?’ One volunteer had just consoled a recipient: through tears she shared that she was so grateful for the food boxes — her bank account was near empty. Others needed two, or picked one up for a friend who had no means of transport to the center. It became evident that this was an operation integral to meeting the needs of more than just our elderly and at-risk community. 

Kristina Rocco Levy meets the LA Regional Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry for a drop off. The Love Project is providing a lifeline for local seniors and others in need during the coronavirus crisis.
Topanga Love Project volunteers at Pine Tree Circle where Food Bank boxes are distributed to the community. This is a DIY community outreach project that was created from the heart of our community to spread some love and light during this trying time.

We wanted to share more about The Topanga Love Project, with the intention that it may open more doors for Topangans to get inspired to get involved. Whether it is through fundraising or volunteering, more support is needed to keep this lifeline going through the coming season. Kristina Rocco-Levy shares insight and wise words for fall:

Tell us a little bit about the Topanga Love Project food bank and how it came to fruition? 

On March 13, when Covid-19 forced all schools to suspend classes, my husband and I immediately saw half of our business revenue vanish. Lunches with Love (LWL), the school lunch catering aspect of our business was shut down. During the unprecedented week that followed, I received a random, serendipitous phone call. An elder Topanga woman had mistakenly dialed thinking she was calling Kristine Sloan, a Canyon Sages’ volunteer. Hearing “I’m almost out of food, and I can’t leave my house” was all I needed to hear to spark an immediate response. Within 24 hours, my husband and I combined forces with Kristine, using their system of volunteers and list of the most vulnerable community members to develop a meal delivery operation. 

Moved to try to make a positive difference in the craziness of our upheaved world, my sister-in-law Inara George and her husband Jake Kasdan financially spearheaded the project and continue to be the main contributors. Donations also come from community members. That is how the Topanga Love Project was born. With the help of community organizations such as the Topanga Community Center, Topanga Town Council, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office and the Topanga Covid Coalition, we have expanded our focus from meals to helping families with food insecurity and voter support for the upcoming election. 

The kind warmth of a community coming together to serve its most vulnerable members is beautiful and deeply touching: the selflessness of the delivery volunteers, the willfulness of the TCC to be incredibly supportive, the generosity of the financial backers and the true gratitude of the recipients. 

As a community, how can we come together with a DIY mentality to offer more support during Covid-19? 

The Topanga Love Project is a DIY project created from the heart of our community to spread some love and light during this trying time. Find an organization you feel passionate about and volunteer.

Hopefully this effort can continue on through the winter. Where can volunteers who are interested in getting involved find more information?

Our hope is to continue the meal program through the end of the year with the financial support of the community and the willingness of our volunteers. Volunteers and contributed interested can contact Kristine at kristinesloan@icloud.com 

There are many organizations in Topanga that could use our support: The Topanga Community Center, The Topanga Women’s Circle, T-CEP, Move the World and Topanga Animal Rescue to just name a few. Please contact each organization to find out how you can help. In seemingly bleak times, when I am in service to others I feel uplifted. 

You and your family have been beloved members of the community for a long time. What are the greatest aspects to living here and what are some that we as a community can improve on?

I have been a resident of Topanga since 1978, and I have seen a lot of changes in the canyon but the one thing that remains true is the Topanga commitment to community in both good times and bad. Through fire, floods, and pandemics we stick together. Topanga has provided a great location to raise my family and I am proud to be a member of this canyon. 

What words of advice do you have for Topangans as we prepare for fall and winter?

To prepare for fall and winter and the potential fires and floods you can make sure your emergency kit is up to date, make sure you have an emergency plan with your family, download the Pulse Point app and, most importantly, stay kind to others.

Kristina Rocco Levy delivers meals to a nearby hospital. Frontline workers like doctors and nurses can also use the comfort of a home-style meal.
Hot meals for the program are prepared at Rocco’s kitchen in Pacific Palisades from the same high quality ingredients and with the recipes used for two generations at the family restaurant.