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Long Beach resident Charron Gonder has been feeding the community’s homeless population since 2010, but it wasn’t until 2014 that she decided to transform her efforts into a nonprofit organization, now known as Tranquility Counseling Services.
While initially Gonder intended to use her background as an addiction specialist to inform her work (hence the Counseling Services in the name), it was the need that she saw every day on the streets of Long Beach that truly molded what Tranquility Counseling Services has become.
“I just saw a need for people needing blankets and food, and clothes, and shelter, and that’s what I saw myself doing on a regular basis,” she said. “And it was not about bringing someone to an office, sitting down, counseling them and asking them how they can get better. It just wasn’t for me.”
During the organization’s earlier days, Gonder was just able to provide one food distribution each month, but today, Tranquility Counseling Services holds food distributions twice a month at New Hope Church, generally feeding around 200 people each time.
Even as the pandemic impacted food insecurity, distributions continued regularly, with Gonder making every effort to meet the increased need.
“My whole purpose is I could be in that situation and people that I know can be in that situation, and I just wouldn’t want anyone to just walk past me if I needed help in any way,” said Gonder. “That’s where my passion comes from, I would want someone to do that for me.”
In addition, Gonder hosts an annual backpack giveaway for students, and provides Thanksgiving turkey and food bag distributions, along with Christmas toy giveaways. Plus, Tranquility supplies monthly care packages to people experiencing homelessness, generally around Long Beach’s Downtown area.
Gonder has also expanded her efforts to awarding students and celebrating other community members; last May, scholarships were granted to 10 African American males graduating from Poly High School (with the help of a partnership with Snoop Dogg), and during Black History Month, the organization picks a school or two in the Long Beach Unified School District and drops off gift bags.
As a reward for good grades, students have also received gift cards or even trips to Lakers or Clippers games, courtesy of Tranquility Counseling Services.
“I want these kids to have some type of incentive to do well in school and proceed and be successful after school is over,” said Gonder. “My goal is to raise funds to be able to give these kids an incentive to work hard, get an education and just be something great.”
In addition, this past September, Gonder even hosted an event honoring six women of color who have been in business for over 20 years.
And in the meantime, between events and food distributions, Gonder makes an effort to respond to calls for assistance, often involving trying to connect people experiencing homelessness to resources such as showers.
“This is where I live, this is where my son was born. He’s 13 years old, I do everything for him as well too,” said Gonder. “I want him to see the example that I’m setting because he’s also a child of color and he’s got his own challenges as well, so I’m trying to shape him to be successful.”
While becoming a nonprofit has allowed the organization to receive food and item donations, and Gonder has been able to partner with people such as football player Juju Smith-Schuster, baseball player Darryl Strawberry, and Snoop Dogg, most of her services are funded out of pocket.
“That would be the biggest challenge, which is one of the reasons why I’m starting to be a little bit more vocal, because a lot of people don’t know that I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” she said.
While her top priority remains providing food and resources to people experiencing homelessness in Long Beach, she would love to be able to offer larger scholarships to more students at more schools, and expand the organization’s offerings further.
“Every day we wake up is just a blessing and then a challenge in itself as well,” said Gonder. “So if I can be a difference to someone while I’m here, then I think that’s my greatest accomplishment.”
Tranquility Counseling Services’ food distributions are every first and third Saturday of the month from 10 to 11 a.m. at New Hope Church, 1119 E. Rhea St.