RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — When a mother saw how the pandemic was severely affecting her neighbors, she decided to start making them dinner to ease their burden.
Now, that simple act of kindness has expanded into a nationwide movement called Lasagna Love that's made its way to the Inland Empire.
It’s tight in Room 119 and there’s a family of five living in this motel room.
Maria Diaz said she and her three boys moved into Rodeway Inn three weeks ago when the last motel they were staying in kicked them out for staying too long.
“I got laid off because of Coronavirus so since then, everything came down," Maria explained.
Her husband is still working at a warehouse, but they don’t have a car and nearly all of the money he makes goes to paying the $525 it costs to live at the Inn every week.
Maria said they use the bathroom as a kitchen to cook what they can buy with food stamps.
“If I boil water, I boil it on this side, really fast," Maria showed. "Then when I cook, I have to get an extension cord and pass it this way.”
It makes things really difficult for the family, with boys who are still trying to get an education and learn from home in these conditions.
Ashley Watson said these are the families she enjoys helping most. She remembers living in a motel herself during part of her childhood.
Now, she’s a caregiver. But at the beginning of the pandemic, Ashley found herself unemployed and unfulfilled.
“I felt like there was nothing I could do to help other people anymore, but once I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw this was an opportunity to change that," she said.
Ashley stumbled upon Lasagna Love, a group founded by a Boston woman and her toddler who started making and delivering meals to other moms in her community that were struggling financially or emotionally due to the pandemic.
It’s since grown to a national movement. But Ashley saw there was no one to cover the need in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.
“I was the first volunteer in this area, so I started recruiting families and started spreading the word," she explained.
Now, she said, there are roughly 200 volunteers in the I.E. alone, each one delivering a free lasagna to any family who signs up.
More than 1,800 meals have been delivered in Southern California in the last several months.
Ashley said she’s proud to be a part of a movement that breaks the stigma of asking for help.
On this day, Ashley is excited to be delivering a lasagna fresh out of the oven to Rodeway Inn to Maria’s family.
“This is for dinner," she said as he passed the dish to Maria.
Maria said she’s grateful. They were down to their last $2 and had no idea what they’d be eating for dinner.
“She’s helping a lot of people that are going hungry. They don’t have no money to feed their kids or feed themselves you know, and it’s hard," Maria said.
A non-profit bringing back an old school tradition in trying times, while spreading love with a casserole to remind a neighbor they’re not alone.
If you would like to sign up for a lasagna, or to volunteer, visit here.