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The City Journals

Midvale bakery collects supplies for victims of Samoan measles outbreak

Feb 13, 2020 02:50PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart

Lita Sagato (center) poses with her mother and three of her siblings and boxes of supplies to be shipped to Samoa to aid victims of the recent measles outbreak. (Photo courtesy Sagato Bakery & Café)

By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]

Lita Sagato was visiting Samoa for a family reunion in October just as a deadly measles outbreak was beginning. “They were starting to close the schools down at that time,” Sagato said. “I didn’t ever think it would get this bad.”

The outbreak was most dangerous for young children that had not been immunized. A distant relative of Sagato, just a baby, passed away at the end of November.

As the news coming from the islands got worse, Sagato knew she had to do something. Her family operates the Sagato Bakery & Café in Midvale, which serves food inspired by Samoa and other Polynesian islands. “People were calling me asking how they could help,” Sagato said.

The bakery began asking for donations in early December. The list of needed supplies came from the National Emergency Center and included items such as hand sanitizer, medical face masks and vitamin A.

The donations came from dozens all over Utah.

“It was a very good turn out,” Sagato said. “Lots of individuals and groups, like a Zumba group that collected diapers and brought them over. Another family that came from Utah County did a huge drive and brought 200 care kits they put together with their community.”

Dozens of individuals and families dropped by the bakery with donations and even the Salt Lake Police Department brought in supplies. 

“We had people stop by after lunch and drop off hand sanitizer,” Sagato said. “One person went to Costco and bought a bunch of latex gloves.”

A week later they had collected three pallets full of supplies. Volunteers packed the items onto the wooden pallets. “The whole hallway leading to the restrooms at the cafe was full,” Sagato said.

Cash donations were used to ship the supplies to Los Angeles, California. They were then flown to Samoa. A group in Samoa got a sponsorship for the air freight costs, according to Sagato. 

All pallets have arrived in Samoa and the supplies were passed out to hospitals and clinics by a team of interns from the National University of Samoa.

Having a community partner was critical to the success of the donation drive. The bakery was able to connect with Brown Girl Woke, a nonprofit based in California. “The founder moved to Samoa and works with females that have been abused,” Sagato said. “She does afterschool programs and work around mental health, but then the measles thing happened and she reached out to all her contacts.”

The Sagato family also rallied volunteers in Utah after a deadly tsunami hit Samoa in 2009. They collected two truckloads of donations in two days for families who had lost their homes. The family has been selling Polynesian treats in Utah since 1994 and opened their storefront location at 44 W. 7200 South in Midvale in December 2018.

“People (with donations) kept coming, so after that first batch sent on a Monday we sent three more pallets that Friday,” Sagato said. “Right before Christmas, consultants from doTERRA brought health kits and things to use in hospitals. So we sent another pallet just of their stuff.” 

As of Jan. 5, more than 2% of the island’s population had contracted measles, with 83 reported deaths. Tragically, a majority of deaths occurred in children 4 years old or younger.

“We just pray that everything gets better,” Sagato said. “We’re just waiting to see if they have other needs and we’ll do what we can from here.”