WATTS, Calif. — As a baker, the kitchen is a place Keeban Marks is quite familiar with.

He was hired back in April, with the job being his main source of income for his wife and five kids in Watts. But about a month ago, the pandemic cost him his job because of lack of seniority, as the bakery where he worked cut back.

What You Need To Know

  • The Rams with their partners recently gave 70 families a monthly grocery card

  • Players have donated $30,000 dollars to provide monthly support to the Operation Progress grocery program

  • The Rams learned the needs of so many families because of Meryland Gonzalez, who is a part of Operation Progress

  • Operation Progress pairs police officers and youth in a mentorship program

“It was a kick to the gut,” Marks said. “I’m an optimist. I don’t let things get me down too much.”

Just a week later, the optimism was rewarded. Marks and his family received a month full of groceries from the Los Angeles Rams and their partners.

“It was a lot of weight off my shoulders because I didn’t have to worry about where any food was coming from immediately,” said Marks.

They were one of 70 families given a monthly grocery card from the Rams. Molly Higgins, vice president of the team’s community affairs, had felt compelled to do something.

“We know food insecurity is a huge issue in Los Angeles,” said Higgins. “Prior to the pandemic, one in five in Angelenos were suffering with food insecurities. We know that it’s only been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

She found out about the need of families through Meryland Gonzalez, a youth boxing champion. Gonzalez is a part of the Operation Progress program, which pairs police officers with youth in the community. She told Higgins about the personal struggles the pandemic was causing her family.

“She called me as kind of mentee and said, 'You know, Molly, we don’t have any food,'" said Gonzalez. "And I said, 'I’ll be there tomorrow with groceries.'"

The Rams players have donated $30,000 dollars to provide monthly support to the Operation Progress grocery program for as long as needed. It will help Gonzalez’s family and many others like the Marks, who are staying optimistic through it all.

“Things will get better,” Marks said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

The Rams recently released a documentary about the story of 14-year-old Meryland Gonzalez and Operation Progress called The Concrete Rose. You can find the short film here.