BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA) — Nicolas Pinedo didn’t have much in the first few weeks of the pandemic, but he had time, a truck and a desire to help those in need.

Nicolas Pinedo didn’t have much in the first few weeks of the pandemic, but he had time, a truck and a desire to help those in need. (CBSLA)

“I really like to help the people, you know,” he said. “I’m retired, so I have a lot of time to spend my time doing something.”

And by doing something, Pinedo became a hero to those in his Boyle Heights neighborhood.

“Don Nico, as we affectionately call him,” Rose Navas, of the White Memorial Community Garden, said.

“That makes me feel good,” Pinedo said of the nickname.

But it’s Pinedo who delivers hope to so many during twice weekly food distribution events outside the Bridge Street Community Garden, behind White Memorial Medical Center.

“A lot of them are part of that essential worker [group],” Navas said of those who line up in cars outside of the garden every Monday and Thursday.

Pinedo said he started the events in April after seeing his neighbors struggling like never before. He started by driving around collecting food in his truck and delivering it to the community garden to be given to those in need.

“Most of the people, they say, ‘OK, God bless you, thanks for what you’re doing,'” Pinedo said.

And from those humble beginnings, the effort has grown to providing much needed food — some of it harvested from the garden — to an average of 700 families every week.

“Boyle Heights historically is a food desert,” Navas said. “We definitely see a future in this to make sure that everybody has access to quality healthy foods and produce.”

But Pinedo provides families with more than just a box of food, he offers them compassion and warmth.

“Don Nico makes a huge difference here at our White Memorial garden,” Navas said. “It’s because of his willingness to give, his willingness to be there and assist others. And, also, a little bit of just the leadership skills and qualities the he just has.”

And at Thursday’s distribution, the boxes and bags had a little extra in them for Christmas — a fettuccini dinner and gift certificates to use at local Boyle Heights cafes.

Pinedo said he was filled with gratitude for the many people who have volunteered and donated to make the effort successful and hopes that others will be moved to make a difference in their communities.