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Meet Darlene Tenes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Darlene Tenes.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Just a couple of weeks into the Shelter-in-Place mandate, I woke up on April 25th at 4am. As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I spotted a post by Assemblymember Robert Rivas who was hosting a Farmworker Relief Drive in Watsonville the same day. Knowing that few people were awake at that hour, I waited until just before 8am to post and see if anyone wanted to caravan and take donations to the farmworkers. My parents and I were in one car, my sisters Celeste and Diana in another, my other “sistas” Gabby Chavez-Lopez, her mom Janice and my high school friend Diane cleared out their pantries and jumped in their cars to meet up at 11am. We had four cars headed to Watsonville and when we got there they were collecting donations at a small home with a narrow street. This got me thinking. I was really bothered that everyone was giving accolades to all of the essential workers but they never mentioned the farmworkers.

From day one during the Pandemic the farmworkers have been working from dawn to dusk to put food on the tables of everyone across America. I felt the most essential workers of all were not being recognized as they endured heatwaves, wildfire smoke and fear of COVID-19 and I wanted to do something about it. I thought with my marketing and event planning background, I could rally the community to bring more donations. The next day I put something up on Facebook and in 48 hours, we had 90 cars registered. Then on Wednesday I shut down the caravan registration and decided to organize a donation drive in 24 hours getting volunteers, three large box trucks and a location to collect donations. By Friday, we had a line of cars backed up on 11th Street in front of the San Jose Woman’s Club dropping off donations. What I thought would be a one-time effort has turned into a monthly endeavor since the pandemic started. People think that it is a full-blown nonprofit and I have to remind them that it is a grassroots effort by individuals who are just trying to make our little corner of the world a better place to live. Because so many people were calling, texting and messaging me with tons of questions, I ended up making a website at just so I could refer them there rather than answering everybody individually.

On the website there is lots of information, pictures and videos plus Ways to Get Involved which could be anything from hosting a donation drive to making Thank You cards for the farmworkers. Although I get a lot of the credit for organizing the caravans there is a group of amazing and dedicated people behind the scenes who have been volunteering alongside me making these humanitarian efforts possible. The Farmworker Caravans are an eye-opening experience for people and they get very emotional. I’ve been told time and again how beautiful it is to see people come together in unity to do something good especially during these trying times in history. Because of the pandemic and change in weather we will not be able to safely do donation drops and caravans indoors or outdoors throughout the winter. Since then, we did a Halloween Treat bag drive for the children of farmworkers and recently a Christmas con cariño stocking drive where we collected 6,000 stocking to give away to multiple nonprofit agencies that work with farmworker families from Half Moon Bay to Greenfield, CA.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Since I started the caravans at the onset of shelter-in-place, I was the first one out of the gate doing a public gathering. There was no handbook or I couldn’t just google “How to do an event during a pandemic”. I had to really think about how to work with the volunteers and agencies safely and efficiently. One of the other obstacles was getting some organizations to acknowledge farmworkers as essential workers. I submitted requests to many organizations who were giving meals, PPE or in-kind donations to essential workers but we would get rejected time and again. I requested an in-kind donation of KIND bars and was told we meant “health care workers”, not farmworkers. They boast that their products contain “whole nuts, whole grains or whole fruit… We are deeply committed to crafting food with real, recognizable ingredients and seek to work with farmers who share our passion.” So obviously the work of farmworkers is essential to them yet they won’t acknowledge them. They even offer “15% off for military, teachers, students, first responders, doctors and nurses” but again not farmworkers.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I own CasaQ by Darlene, a Latino Lifestyle company that curates and creates cultural products, events and travel experiences. This year I’m very excited to be introducing my new Xocolatl – Mexican Artisan Chocolate. It took me a long time to get the recipe just right and go through tasting panels and revisions till I finally got the perfect blend. Xocolatl is a sweet and savory mixture of cocoa, cinnamon and vanilla along with a touch of chile and other spices to make a wonderfully luscious drink like no other.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?

Contact Info:

Image Credits
CasaQ Roberto Gonzalez, Nueva Foto

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