Jefferson Awards for Public ServiceBy Sharon Chin

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — People are coming up with a lot of creative ways to give during the COVID-19 pandemic, including one person whose generosity started with her paintbrush.

Jhina Alvarado recently presented Pamela Illes with a portrait of Illes’ father, who recently died of COVID-19.

READ MORE: COVID Surge: Mask Mandate Returns To Bay Area Businesses With No Limits On Capacity

“I love it. That’s my Dad,” Illes affirmed.

“The fact that she loves it, and it looks like him means a lot,” nodded Alvarado.

Alvarado created the piece as part of the service project she began while sheltering in place in her San Francisco home.

She’s painting portraits at $200 apiece — a fifth of the normal rate — and donating the money to people in need.


The professional artist, who’s also a math teacher at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, spread the word through social media.

“My husband and I, our kids, are all OK during this time. We have a place to stay, money for groceries, we’re still able to pay our bills,” Alvarado explained. “It just broke my heart to see so many people who were struggling.”

She has painted 55 portraits based on people’s photos and made more than $11,000 since mid-March, giving all of the funds to more than 55 families.

READ MORE: Firefighters Battling 2-3 Acre Wildfire In Lake County

One of those families is Oakland resident Adamma Ison and her five-year-old son, Jeremiah, who received $400 in donations that paid for food.

“It meant a sense of peace,” said Ison, who also helped direct Alvarado’s donations to other cash-strapped households.

“I think it’s awesome that she cared and was willing to take care of people she didn’t know,” she said.

Illes agreed “It says how generous she is.”

And talented. Each work of art takes about two hours to craft. Alvarado’s paintings become treasured possessions.

LEARN MORE: Jefferson Awards for Public Service

As Illes gazed at the life-like portrait she commissioned Alvarado to paint of her father, she said she plans to give it to her nephew.

“He wants to have something special to remember his grandfather and this picture’s perfect,” Illes said.

“I felt very honored to be able to do that for her and be a part of honoring her Dad,” Alvarado said.

MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Shooting Shuts Down EB Highway 4 In Antioch

So for painting portraits and donating the proceeds to families in need, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Jhina Alvarado.