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Bay Area leaders step up to help Latino community hit hard by pandemic

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — San Francisco’s Mission District has been hit hard by the pandemic. 

But a group of dedicated neighborhood leaders have stepped in to help fight the impact the virus has had on the community. 

The chair of the Latino Task Force’s health committee continues to lead his community through the many challenges brought about by COVID-19.

San Francisco’s Mission District is home to a vibrant Latino community. Sadly, now it’s also a major Bay Area battleground for COVID-19.

Helping lead the battle is Jon Jacobo. He’s the chair of the Latino Task Force’s health committee.

Every Thursday you can find the group giving free COVID-19 testing for the community. 

“We can’t fix all of the problems but we can at least provide some reprieve, just that little bit, to make life a little bit easier in this country,” Jacobo said.

And they do just that.

Handing out more than 7,000 boxes of food every week. Volunteers also provide resources for medical, legal and job assistance. 

“People are hungry, people are scared and people are tired,” Jacobo said. “The challenges we face are many but fortunately we have volunteers and people that are willing to get together to try to give some of this stuff back.”

More than 30 non-profits organizations make up the Mission’s Latino Task Force. Members volunteer their time, money and heart.

Jacobo said he’s honored and privileged to be part of it, but he credits many of the women who have been doing this important work for decades. 

“But I like to point out that it’s predominantly the women that have A, pushed the ball forward and B, continue to make the plays to make things happen,” he said. “That’s important to highlight.”

Latino Task Force coordinator Valerie Tulier-Laiwa has worked with Jacobo for years. She sees him as a future community leader. 

“There’s a fire, we run into the fire, we don’t run away from the fire. And that’s what Jon has done,” Tulier-Laiwa said. “Jon has run into the fire to really support people who are suffering from this pandemic.”

In giving back, Jacobo said he’s honoring his late mother who emigrated from El Salvador. His sister Lila believes he’s living out their parents dream when they came to this country. 

“A lot of people would not have the opportunity to be tested. This is amazing, what they’re doing here,” Lila said. “So I’m just overwhelmed and so proud.”

But Jacobo knows the work doesn’t stop here.

As Latino communities in the U.S. are dealing with the same issues, he says the task force is ready to partner with similar groups to help communities across the country.  

“This doesn’t happen in a vacuum, we have to be able to share this, to export it if you will to different neighborhoods and ensure they can empower themselves in the same way,” Jacobo said.

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