Mikey’s Community Pantry Helps 900 Families In First Month |

Every June, Pride Month celebrations commemorate the contributions and impact of LGBT + people. This year, with the theme ‘The Fight Continues’, pride organizations around the world are acknowledging the many battles facing the LGBT + community, especially how the ongoing pandemic is shaping our culture, economy, society and ourselves.

For Michael Barilea, Business Support Consultant at Wells Fargo, the fight is a call for service. In mid-April, he saw a viral social media post of the simple bamboo cart and a few posts with two signs proclaiming, “Maginhawa Community Food Pantry – Give What You Can. Take what you need. ”Inspired to replicate the model in his local community, he immediately enlisted financial support from his neighbors to purchase groceries for an underfunded neighboring community. turned out to be one of hundreds that sprouted across the country in the days that followed.Together, these community pantries would tackle the urgent food crisis resulting from more than a year of lockdown.

In picture (LR): Dr Michael Sioson with his partner Michael Barilea, business support consultant at Wells Fargo

Do what’s right

Barilea cites Do What’s Right – one of the expectations of Wells Fargo employees – as his motivation for setting up a community pantry in Alabang. “Knowing that people were losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, the only right thing to do was help. Wells Fargo trained me to be a leader, not just a follower. I was motivated to step in and do something concrete.

At work, Barilea is nicknamed “Mr. Engagement” for his participation in employee engagement groups such as Pride Connections, Green Team and Well-being Champions, in addition to his daily work. “Wells Fargo gave me the opportunity to sit on the organizing committees for these groups, which honed my skills. Pantry operations evolved to become more efficient and sustainable when I applied the lessons learned from these experiences, ”he said.

Barilea and her partner, Michael Sioson, are known to their friends and neighbors as “The Mikeys”. After an initial community pantry launch on April 20, The Mikeys partnered with a local grocery store so goods could be delivered directly to them for sorting into food packaging. They coordinated closely with community representatives to distribute stubs and assign schedules to ensure goods were distributed evenly and safely, and with the community volunteers to ensure that safety protocols can be followed at all times. After a fire ravaged a nearby low-income neighborhood, they used part of the funds to buy building materials to help survivors rebuild around 30 homes.

In total, after joining forces with neighboring villages to scale up their operations, Barilea estimates that they have helped nearly 900 families in their first month of One Alabang Community Pantry.

Hundreds of people line up at Mikeys’ One Alabang Community Pantry.

The fight goes on

This isn’t the couple’s first community service project. Before the pandemic, the Mikeys regularly took part in medical missions to help the indigenous people of Mindoro.

Barilea’s decision to join Wells Fargo in 2017 became a turning point in their lives. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Sioson did not have medical insurance. Benefits for Wells Fargo employees include counseling, diagnosis, and treatment for HIV / AIDS; gender reaffirmation surgery; and medical insurance coverage for domestic partners regardless of gender, meaning that for the first time Sioson was able to benefit from medical insurance coverage as a dependent of Barilea.

Barilea also thanks Pride for helping him become a “last bloomer”. In 2017, he had yet to fully embrace his identity and he was looking for a purpose. By following the example of his fellow Pride members, who dared to act and defend themselves, Barilea learned to do the same. “Before, I wished I could be in the front, waving the rainbow flag, standing with my LGBT + siblings. I wasn’t ready then, but I am now. Today, Barilea sees himself as a proud and proud homosexual who is committed to serving his community. He has found his purpose.

Great things can come from small beginnings, as can the idea of ​​the community pantry. “I know people hesitate to act because they think their effort is just minimal. If you want to fight for something, have a goal in mind, but don’t be afraid to take small steps, ”explained Barilea. He and Sioson often talk about sustainability. How long can they keep this? “As long as there are people in need and people ready to help, we will be there. The fight goes on. “

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Norma P. Rex

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