OXNARD, Calif. — Handing out household and baby supplies are a welcomed relief for Gabriela Perez, who found herself having more time than she knew what to do with during the pandemic.

"It feels good to actually be able to interact with people again," Perez said. "Especially since I was trapped inside for so long, and I didn't get to see people."

What You Need To Know

  • Unemployment and pandemic challenges pushed Gabriela Perez to give back with her time

  • Large-scale nonprofits were unable to hold their annual events during the pandemic

  • The CLUSTER app connects volunteers in-person or virtually with social good events in their communities

  • CLUSTER is available for download in the Apple and Google app store

Perez had been working as a production assistant before COVID-19 restrictions went into effect. The change left a lasting impact on Perez, who is now searching for ways to give back with her time.

"During the pandemic, I've been searching for so many foundations, something I can get my feet back into helping the community because we've all been hit really hard with it, and I just want to do something greater for everybody else because I know how it is to feel helpless," Perez said.

The restrictions also impacted many large-scale nonprofit events from safely gathering. As Perez continued her search to give back, she found the Celebration Foundation event that brought food and household supplies for SoCal's farmworkers who were in need through an app called CLUSTER. A social good platform that connects volunteers looking to donate their time with organizations that need extra help. C.R. Celona is the founder and CEO who said the pandemic created a great need to bring resources and technology together.

"We all have time in abundance. We're lucky for that right now, and if you can take that and whether it's focused on the environment, it's focused on food security whatever it is that you care about — a street cleanup — you should be able to go out there and you can now, to effect that change," Celona said.

Perez couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity to give back when so many are in need. 

"I definitely feel more connected because I'm working with people who really need it," she said.

Until Perez finds more work, she said she'll spend her time being there for others who might benefit from her efforts the most.