The coronavirus pandemic has restricted family members from visiting hospitals and treatment centers at a time when their loved ones need them most.
A South Los Angeles woman noticed the need at her grandmother's dialysis center and was inspired to help.
Even through her mask, you can tell Esmeralda Blanco‘s memories of her grandmother bring up strong emotions. It may not have been the best thing for her, but Blanco said her 79-year-old grandmother Luisa would always insist on a treat.
It's one of the many things she cherishes about their time together.
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"Those that know my grandma know she was always drinking an ice coffee. That was her thing," said Blanco, founder of Grandma Luisa's Gift. "Every time after dialysis we would go get Starbucks or we would go eat."
It was her time sitting with her grandmother during dialysis that Blanco noticed other patients did not have what her grandmother did: blankets, food, and loved ones to hold their hands.
"I cannot imagine the fear they have right now going to the grocery store and getting food," Blanco said.
She collects food, supplies, and snacks for dialysis patients who are now even more vulnerable and alone due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"They don’t allow people to go in with them, that’s scary to think about," she said.
Blanco has given hundreds of bags to dialysis patients all around South Los Angeles, each one filled with donated goods — and a message.
"Know that you are not alone — may God bless you, in memory of my grandmother Maria Luisa," Blanco said.
Luisa lost her fight to health issues last year. Blanco said she is reminded of her beloved grandmother with each person she helps.
"Every time I see them smile is as if my grandma is smiling at me. Sometimes I’m very, very exhausted and when I get a call like that it just motivates me to continue doing what we do," she said.
Blanco says she also includes her phone number in those bags in case patients need a ride or just someone to talk to. She is taking donations through her Facebook page.