In a back parking lot at Marina High in Huntington Beach, three members of the girls soccer team wait near a table set up to collect donations for Colette’s Children’s Home. The trio has been there about an hour on a quiet afternoon, along with a couple of moms from the booster club. Donations are slow but steady.
Some items come from teammates, who unload the goods as their mothers drop them off for practice. Others come from the community, as residents have learned of the collection drive. One neighbor brings in $200 in gift cards.
The organizers — seniors Natalie Hartman, Haley Boren and McKenna Pua — will be back at the table Monday, Nov. 16, doing what they can on behalf of Colette’s, which helps homeless women and children.
They’ll also be playing a part in Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, an annual undertaking that started 45 years ago on a college campus in Pennsylvania. It is now a national event.
The aim of the next seven days, from Sunday, Nov. 15, to Saturday, Nov. 22, is to spotlight the hurdles faced by people who struggle with food and shelter, and to encourage people who don’t struggle with those issues to make some kind of difference — from making donations to attending Zoom classes on homelessness.
In 2020, need is everywhere. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the poor hardest in terms of health and in terms of economics — from lost jobs, to shuttered small businesses, to rising food insecurity. The pain is likely to expand when rent moratoriums and unemployment checks end.
Where’s the next meal?
Mark Lowry, director of Orange County Food Bank, recently fretted that November would start at the edge of a “food cliff” with local food banks hard pressed to meet coronavirus-fueled needs that have not abated. His worries, coupled with the same concerns at Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, stemmed from the winding down of an emergency federal food box program.
But three things have happened recently that might ease that fear. First, county supervisors came through with $3 million in CARES Act money to be split by the two food banks. Then the USDA extended to Dec. 31 its Farmers to Families program that has provided fresh produce, dairy and meat products to help feed Americans hit hard by the pandemic. And, finally, OC Food Bank, part of Community Action Partnership of Orange County, will get $2 million from a pot of $90 million the state of California is providing its network of food banks — a key in helping local people eat.
“That all means that the holidays look far better today than they did two to three weeks ago,” Lowry said.
“The worry now is for Jan. 1. By then, all of these sources will have expired.”
Until Dec. 11, OC Food Bank will be focused on its Hope for Holidays campaign, raising money for food and other resources. An anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $10,000. The campaign also includes an Adopt a Family option.
The food bank, located in Garden Grove (and reconfigured for social distancing), needs volunteers. Many of the people who stepped in when the pandemic shut out some traditional volunteers — church groups, company teams, service organizations — are returning to work. That, Lowry said, will lead to another gap in volunteer services.
How to get or give help: For information on providing a meal or helping a family through the Orange County Food Bank, go to capoc.org/hope-for-the-holidays, or call 714-897-6670.
Thanksgiving on wheels
With the pandemic heading into a third wave, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County will host its first ever drive-thru Thanksgiving. During the event at the Honda Center in Anaheim, on Nov. 26, from 9 a.m. to noon, Second Harvest will team up with OC Food Bank, Waste Not OC, We Give Thanks, Inc., Wells Fargo, the Honda Center and the Anaheim Ducks to get food to needy families — in cars.
The drive-thru event replaces the annual Thanksgiving Day buffet sponsored by We Give Thanks and the Ducks, a gathering founded by restaurateur Frank Garcia and held for 11 years at the Honda Center. Each visiting vehicle will leave with a heat-and-serve holiday meal to feed four, plus another box of supplemental, shelf-stable food. The plan is to distribute enough food to feed 28,000 people.
How to get or give help: The Thanksgiving Day drive-through distribution at the Honda Center will take place off Douglass Road in Anaheim. Find out more about Second Harvest Food Bank’s holiday needs and plans at feedoc.org. The the 2-1-1 OC referral service also maintains a list of food pantries, distribution drives, and other food sources. Call 2-1-1 (within Orange County), text 898-211 or visit 211oc.org.
Hit up the neighbors
The Orange County Rescue Mission, which houses about 700 people on any given night at its 14 campuses, also is concerned with being ready for the holidays. The faith-based organization helps about 23,000 people a year in some way and, right now, food is the big need, said Jim Palmer, Rescue Mission president.
When coronavirus hit, the food drives that the group usually holds at schools, churches and workplaces, stopped.
“That’s been a real challenge for us,” said Palmer, who estimated that the Rescue Mission is down about 75 percent on such donations.
He encourages people to hold their own food drives, getting donations from families and neighbors. He offers some tips: create a flier, pick a date, and ask contributors to drop off food in a bag or box at your front door, or for pickup at theirs. Palmer said donations can be brought to the Rescue Mission’s Tustin warehouse at the Village of Hope, 1 Hope Drive, where big blue bins out front allow for no-touch deliveries 24/7.
“People can still engage in helping people,” Palmer said. “It just looks different.”
How to get or give help: To hold a donation drive for Orange County Rescue Mission, go to rescuemission/donation-drive.org for instructions. There’s also a list of the most-needed food items at rescuemission.org/urgent-thanksgiving-food-needs. Or call 714-247-4300.
Ready, willing and able
LaVal Brewer has a message for south county residents who are struggling with basic needs: Call South County Outreach.
Brewer, who in June took over as president and CEO of the Irvine-based charity, wants to encourage calls from anyone reluctant to ask for help. That’s a particular hurdle in a region deemed more affluent than the rest of Orange County. The pandemic has brought economic hardship to people who previously held solid middle or upper middle class lives. Many have lost jobs and can’t pay rent or mortgages, or feed their families.
“They are putting their lives on credit cards,” said Brewer, who lives in Mission Viejo.
South County Outreach has teamed up with Family Assistance Ministries (FAM) in San Clemente to let people know they can get money to help with rent and house payments, food, and utility bills, Brewer said.
South County Outreach has served 5,241 people so far this year, up 14% from a year ago. And Brewer said the number of households his group has helped with rental assistance has more than doubled.
“Last month we had the most calls for help since April.”
The food banks help stock the South County Outreach pantry. But cash donations are needed to purchase dairy products — milk, eggs and butter. The biggest months for food distribution are November and December.
Brewer is worried about growing food demands.
“We have enough money to meet the rental assistance demands. We are becoming concerned that we will need financial support to meet the food demands in January and February.”
South County Outreach is drawing from CARES Act money it received and the generosity of individual donors and churches. The charity can help pay at least one month’s rent or house payments and, in some cases, up to three months. Brewer said they recently assisted one family that was six months behind in rent by cutting a check for half the $9,000 they needed.
“We want to tell as many people as possible that there is support for you in south county. There’s a place where you can go,” Brewer said.
“That’s what we’re trying to accomplish this week.”
How to get or give help: Brewer is asking for cash and food donations. Go to sco-oc.org for more information. Appointments are required to visit the food pantry. Call 949-380-8144 for food or rent assistance.
Scoring big goals
At Marina High, the bins on the folding table and the bags beneath it have been filled with an assortment of goods — gently used handbags and clothes, makeup and toiletries, diapers and wipes, towels and bedding. All are ready to deliver to Colette’s Children’s Home. It’s the first charitable drive initiated by the school’s girls soccer team, which last year were Sunset League champs (the first time in 25 years) and third-round CIF contenders.
Colette’s, with its longtime presence in Huntington Beach, seemed a natural fit. For more than two decades the organization has served single women and mothers by providing temporary housing and a path toward self-sufficiency. Now at 300 beds, mostly in four-plex apartment units, Colette’s has locations in Surf City and four other communities in Orange County.
Colette O’Connell, the nonprofit’s fund development director and senior grant writer, stopped by the first day of the Marina High donation drive.
“When the community is able to donate supplies like this it allows us to put more of our money toward the program,” O’Connell said.
Team booster Alison Hartman, Natalie’s mom, helped organize and advertise the drive. She likes that it is “girls helping girls” and can be easily repeated in coming years, after her daughter and peers move on to college.
The girls aren’t oblivious to the 300 or so homeless people in their community, one of the biggest homeless populations in Orange County, according to the last homeless census in January 2019. The first city-operated emergency homeless shelter, or navigation center, is expected to open sometime during Thanksgiving week.
“We’re all local and we live in Huntington Beach,” Natalie said. “We do see people struggling. It’s important that we all come together to give back to our community.”
How to get or give help: The Marina High girls soccer team will be collecting donations from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 16, in a corner of the parking lot near the school’s basketball courts. Use the Edinger Avenue entrance to the school, 15871 Springdale St., Huntington Beach. For a list of items to donate, go to colleteschildrenshome.com.
United Way headway
The pandemic disrupted Orange County United Way’s Welcome Home OC public-private initiative, which is a broad push to address homelessness. But progress continues to be made — so far in 2020, 141 people have been housed.
The initiative, launched in March 2019, has faced delays in helping to house people with subsidized government vouchers, partly because shuttered government offices meant it was hard for housing candidates to get essential documents.
But Becks Heyhoe, executive director of United Way OC’s United to End Homelessness campaign, said things are getting back on track. More than 60 voucher holders have entered the housing pipeline of Welcome Home OC over the past two months. United Way works with landlords and housing navigators from groups that help place homeless people in apartments.
“That’s the highest number we’ve ever had in the pipeline,” Heyhoe said, adding that six of those people have been housed.
The number of landlords and property managers who have joined United Way’s landlord incentive program is up from 40 at the start of the year to 63. They’ve committed to renting units to people who have been chronically homeless but now have rent vouchers.
United Way continues to hold free community education workshops, Homelessness 101 and Advocacy 101, although now by Zoom. Workshops and community chats are scheduled for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week and through the rest of the year.
How to get or give help: Find out about upcoming online workshops at unitedtoendhomelessness.org/events. Video chats and stories of ending homelessness can be viewed on Facebook at facebook.com/UnitedtoEndHomelessness and on the United to End Homelessness YouTube channel.
Orange County United Way also is partnering with Fresh Beginnings Ministries and the City of Irvine to collect non-perishable food at a drive on Saturday, Nov. 21, 1-3 p.m. in Parking Lot 2 of the Great Park. Volunteers can sign up at freshbeginningsministries.com.
Source: Orange County Register