Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis visited the FIND Food Bank in Indio on Wednesday for a tour of the facility and to help with packing away cans of food for distribution to local families and individuals in need. The food bank reported that the number of people it served more than doubled at the height of the pandemic.
Kounalakis, who was elected to her position in 2018, joined a handful of volunteers, members of the California National Guard and young adults from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps program in packing up cans of carrots, corn, chicken and more.
“(This operation) takes people. It takes hands. It takes hearts. And, of course, it takes government to be able to create the conditions as well,” Kounalakis said. “Thanksgiving is the time to give thanks, and I’m really thankful for what all of you do out here.”
Newsom’s out-of-state trip marked the first extended period of time that he’s spent out of California since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Kounalakis said. The occasional role has required her to take on a few added responsibilities, such as weighing parole decisions and calling the families of law enforcement officers who have died — along with the ever-present possibility of something unforeseen happening.
“The Golden State stimulus, which sent checks to millions of California families, helped them get through this unprecedented crisis … and small businesses, which were hurt during the pandemic, I hope there will be additional support for them for next year,” Kounalakis said. “The budget surplus has been a very good tool for this, and we need to continue to extend those policies.”
Kounalakis was also optimistic that the federal infrastructure bill recently passed in Washington, along with the Build Back Better Act that awaits a vote in the Senate, could help lower California’s unemployment rate, which she noted is higher than the nationwide average.
Kounalakis has ties to the Coachella Valley
The lieutenant governor had plans to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in the Coachella Valley, where she said her parents have a home.
“The Coachella Valley is one of the most special places in the world,” Kounalakis said. “My parents have been coming for a long time over the holidays, and I absolutely love it.”
Her visit also highlighted the food bank’s need for local volunteers. Workers from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps program were set to leave in the coming days, and members of the California National Guard could take on other responsibilities at a moment’s notice.
“People love to come out on the holidays, but we would love consistent volunteering,” Sullivan said.
Kounalakis made a similar pitch during her talk to the group, encouraging anyone who is able to come out to the Indio facility.
“For everybody who is out there watching, come down and volunteer and help out,” Kounalakis said. “You’re going to feel great about yourself, and there’s no better way to give thanks than to help somebody else.”
Tom Coulter covers politics. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tomcoulter_.