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Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

Cerritos College • Norwalk, Calif.

Talon Marks

TM Digital Newsletter

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Long Beach non-profit spreads holiday joy

Christine Nader
Rodriguez and Chong sporting bright smiles after recapping their individual journeys that led to the founding of Local Hearts.

Francisco “Tito” Rodriguez and HJ Chong, founders of Local Hearts Foundation, are steadily impacting the lives of Long Beach residents with eager smiles and a lot of heart.

The non-profit organization was founded by Rodriguez and Chong in 2018 and they focus on being providers during upcoming holidays and events.

From giving out 1,000 Dodger tickets to providing hygiene and clothing to women’s shelters, Local Hearts are focused on providing fun and safety.

Rodriguez sought a change in his hometown of Long Beach for the less fortunate families with low income and inability to afford certain items.

“My father committed suicide when I was 6-years-old so we were extremely poor growing up and that always stuck in the back of my head of how poor we were,” Rodriguez said.

“‘How come we didn’t have Christmas’ and how come I didn’t have bikes, new clothes, new backpacks […] What pushed me to start a nonprofit is trying to help kids that are in the same situation that I was in as a kid.”

Chong sports a gray long sleeve and skinny jeans on a sunny day as he explains his start with the foundation.

The video director and editor grew up in a low-income neighborhood in South Los Angeles.

“There’s a church called the First AME Church,” Chong says, “that church is the reason why I had Thanksgiving, why I had Christmas.”

The friendship between Chong and Rodriguez blossomed after Chong returned from a music business trip to Miami.

“I came back [to Los Angeles] and a mutual friend called me and he said, ‘Hey, can you do a video for my buddy who’s in the music industry?’ and I said, ‘No, I’m done with music,’” Chong explained.

“I was like ‘I’m done,’ but I owed my friend a favor. So because of that favor, I got to meet Tito.”

Chong explains that after he briefly met Rodriguez, his future co-founder called him a week later and asked if he’d like to give away items, which he immediately agreed to.

“One thing led to another, and we saw the demand that was needed in the community and then we just kept going and going,” Chong said with a smile.

The duo saw an increase in attraction after their first year of venturing out, receiving requests from citizens in Compton and Norwalk.

They realized that as members of a less fortunate community, they had a movement in their hands and decided to stay within the local realm, thus naming it Local Hearts.

During a Local Hearts Christmas community event, the duo and their volunteers did their annual venture to cities around them in hopes of spreading cheer.

It was then that Rodriguez was given the moniker of “Hood Santa.”

“I dressed up like Santa. I had a cotton ball beard […] Bought a suit on Ebay for like 10 or 12 bucks,” Rodriguez explained with a smile.

“A little kid sees me from the second story and he’s like ‘ay, ay stop! Santa! Santa!’ He runs down and taps me on the chest and he says, ‘Hey man you’re the hood Santa because Santa doesn’t come over here.”

During the pandemic, Local Hearts provided help to first responders as well as trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 in black and brown communities.

With a donation of a million face masks from supporters and organizations, Local Hearts distributed supplies safely with permission from Long Beach.

Local Hearts prides themselves on the amount of volunteers and support that they can give back to anyone in need.

“The people that were once in line are now volunteers for the foundation,” Chong explained. “About 65% of our volunteers are people that we once served.”

As for the future, Rodriguez and Chong are consistent in planning event after event for the community.

Their next event is a Back to School event for students where they will distribute backpacks and school supplies in the month of August.

“I was one of those kids,” Rodriguez finishes off. “To be able to do that [provide], bring that joy, I’ll do whatever it takes.”

For more information on upcoming events or provide a donation, visit https://www.localheartsfoundation.org/

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About the Contributor
Christine Nader, Co-Community Editor
Christine Nader is Co-Community Editor for Talon Marks. Her goal is to write about music and entertainment. She also goes by the nickname Chris, and her hobbies consist of nail care, attending concerts, and watching movies. In the future, Christine hopes to transfer to Cal State Long Beach, then USC Annenberg for a Masters in Journalism.
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Long Beach non-profit spreads holiday joy