In need of a hip replacement and awaiting the surgery scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving, Jaylynne Alexander was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer.
Alexander is a 52-year-old psychology major at Orange Coast College. She is also a single working mom with four adult children and one teenager who lives with her.
“I had spoken with Allison and told her I couldn’t afford groceries and she knew I needed help,” Alexander said of Allison Cuff, a student resource specialist at the Pirates’ Cove.
After learning about Alexander’s situation, Cuff gave her the option of going to the Grocery Outlet in Costa Mesa and getting a discount.
She said she originally thought she was going there to get a 50 percent discount off her purchase. What Alexander did not know was that she had been chosen to be a participant in the Grocery Outlet Random Act of Kindness, GORAK.
GORAK is a project created by the owner of the Grocery Outlet in Costa Mesa, Alan Kumura, who selects a student from OCC and allows them to fill up a shopping cart with whatever they want and need — and he pays for everything in the cart out of his own pocket.
“My funds are limited but I would love to start doing GORAK once a month and helping more students,” Kumura said.
The first student to utilize GORAK was 37-year-old accounting major Danielle Valdez.
Valdez and her family were in a situation where they could not afford groceries because of a problem that occurred with their food stamps.
“At first I didn’t think I could actually fill up my cart with what I wanted because we are on a budget every month and I usually have to be mindful of what I buy,” Valdez said. “The whole experience is imprinted in my heart.”
Valdez, her husband and their three sons moved back to California due to Hurricane Maria affecting their living situation in Puerto Rico. She then went back to school to get her degree while raising three boys and working part time.
Kumura also employs OCC students and currently has five working at his store. He said that the store is there for students and people in need who are looking for name brand items at a cheaper price.
The Cove started its partnership with Kumura in early June and the pantry now receives donations from the store every two months.
“We get students who walk in and tell us that they don’t know what they are going to do or eat because they don’t have any money left and we tell them about the GORAK option,” Cuff said. “But students have to express to us that they need help.”
The store also does a fundraiser every July called Independence from Hunger, in which shoppers can donate money or purchase a premade bag costing between $5 and $20 for an organization at checkout. The proceeds from the last fundraiser went to the nonprofit Share Our Selves and to the Pirates’ Cove. Starting next year all proceeds will only go to the Cove.
Cuff said they try to inform students in need of GORAK so they know it is an option when they are in certain situations.
“I know when I started I was a single mom and I thought I was alone but there are a lot of us out there who need help and they should know about this option,” Alexander said.
For more information about GORAK and the Grocery Outlet in Costa Mesa students can visit the Pirates’ Cove in Journalism 108.