Clothing giveaways, toiletry supplies and neighborhood cleanups abound.

Those are just a few acts of care provided by the Long Beach Care Closet in Bixby Knolls.

"There's a constant need for help here," Duke Givens, co-founder, said. "We saw there was a need, and we've done our best to address it."

Established just over one year ago, the nonprofit has worked with community members to organize cleanups, distribute care packages to the homeless and help families stay on their feet when money's short. But without community help, the nonprofit wouldn't have the reach it's experienced in 2020, Givens said.

"A lot of what we do right now is due to word-of-mouth," he said. "We don't have a website or a lot of the other ways to communicate, just Facebook and talking to people. Maybe in the future we’ll get more social media down.”

Currently, the Care Closet is operating on a need-by-need basis. With the pandemic still ruling, fund-raising events are a no-go, so if there’s a need to address, Givens and his team reach out to community members to spread the word and collect needed donations or supplies.

Without a physical location, Givens relies on the group's Facebook page to reach out to community members and ask for needed items or organize cleanups.

When passing out supplies to homeless members of the community, he added that he’ll ask the folks he’s assisting to help him pick up the trash in the area.

“There is a greater homeless gap — whether it’s drugs or mental illness — but we are brothers' and sisters’ keepers,” he said. “I hope people will start stepping up to care for each other, because that’s the only way we can overcome the hardships in this life.”

Givens’s experience has been rooted in camaraderie since he was a fresh-faced member of the United States Air Force in 1989. He was injured and honorably discharged, and then made his way back to Long Beach four years later.

Once back home, Givens said he started experimenting with photography, later launching his own gallery exhibit called the “Power of Choice.” His photographs depict images of people involved in gang life next to city leaders and business people, juxtaposed without text. The exhibit is currently on display at Long Beach City College.

“No matter where we come from, we all have a choice,” he said. “We also help former inmates, former gang members — former whoever — get back on their feet. If they choose to change their life for the better, we’ll do what we can to help.”

He added that help comes in many forms, and situations that call for help are continuously changing.

"At the end of the day, people still need help and love," he said. "They can discern and feel the love that you give them. And that’s the most important thing you can provide to someone on this planet."

For more information about the Long Beach Care Closet, or to make a donation, go to Children’s clothing, hygiene items, socks and undergarments are always needed. Without a physical drop-off location, it's asked that any donations be mailed to PO BOX 367, Long Beach, Calif. 90803.


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