PALMDALE — Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, got to know Palmdale and its environs during a tour with city officials Thursday that also included meeting with Air Force, NASA and defense company representatives at Air Force Plant 42.
“She certainly got a lot of information. We really showcased Palmdale and Plant 42,” City Manager James Purtee said.
The quick-hit tour provided an overview of items within the city tailored to her interests and committee assignments, which include the House Armed Services and the House Science, Space and Technology committees.
“We had a full-court press as far as everything going on at Plant 42 and Edwards Air Force Base,” he said. “She was able to get a quick overview of each of the government contractors out there” with one-on-one meetings with representatives of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing.
The tour also included a visit to NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s facility, with a chance to see inside the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, and learn of the other science programs housed there.
At the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control center, Hill was able to see the work done to keep the airspace over Southern California running smoothly and safely, and she spoke of her concerns regarding the furloughs for federal and contractor employees in the recent government shutdown, Purtee said.
The visit included a tour of South Antelope Valley Emergency Services, or SAVES, the city’s facility providing food and other services to those in need in areas extending to Littlerock, Pearblossom, Llano and parts of Lake Los Angeles, Acton and Lake Elizabeth.
The program is primarily federally funded through various programs and grants, but staffed almost completely by volunteers.
“We’ve been really blessed,” said SAVES Coordinator Patricia Morales, the program’s only paid full-time employee. “This is a labor of love from the community to the community.”
SAVES served close to 10,000 people last year, Morales said — about 1,200 people in a slow month and between 2,500 to 2,700 food orders in a busy one.
“The work that they’re doing in there is truly incredible,” Hill said.
Morales showed Hill the facility’s extensive food bank program, which provides groceries to clients under two different programs, for those who qualify for food stamps and those who don’t qualify but still need assistance.
“We are a clients’ choice pantry. They’re shopping,” she said of people collecting items from shelves and refrigerators stocked with food from local partners such as Sam’s Club, Target and Trader Joe’s and from the regional food bank.
SAVES also partners with the local school district, collecting surplus food from their nutrition programs to provide to clients.
“We’re able to turn it right back out to the parents,” Morales said.
The facility has been seeing a larger number of clients since the start of the year than is typical for January and February, Morales said.
Fortunately, donations from local vendors have been able to keep up with the demand, she said.
The city is seeking grant funds to purchase a large truck for SAVES, to be used to retrieve large donations of food and for trips to the regional food bank in Los Angeles for supplies. As it stands now, SAVES rents a large truck once or twice a week to supplement the two older vans it uses.
Hill also toured the nearby Courson Arts Colony, which provides supportive, affordable housing.
“She was very excited about Courson and SAVES,” Purtee said.
With the visit, officials were able to show Hill personally what projects are here as well as the teamwork among partners. It also provides some context for city officials’ own visit to Washington next month to lobby for Palmdale’s interests, he said.
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