The face of hunger is changing in the Tri-Valley. Open Heart Kitchen Executive Director Linda McKeever sees it first-hand.
"The new face of hunger could be your neighbor quietly suffering and in need," McKeever said. "One family Open Heart Kitchen serves was one of our donors just a short time ago."
The family crossed over from donor to being needy of free, hot meals after the husband lost his job and his wife's hours were cut to just part-time -- all while the economy tanked and still struggles to bounce back. As a result of the recession, their home's value dropped, their mortgage became unaffordable and they subsequently lost their home. The family moved in with a relative, a single mother, who is also struggling to make ends meet.
This scenario is playing out every day in the community.
Through the seventh annual Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund, families like this will be helped with such basic needs as a meal at Open Heart, or medical care at Axis Community Health, which has two Pleasanton facilities. Other families who are dealing with domestic abuse situations can be assisted through Tri-Valley Haven.
These are just some of the ways the truly needy in the local community can be helped through the fund, which this year is a 4-to-1 match of all donations that come in, according to David Rice, President of the Tri-Valley Community Foundation.
Taking a closer look at how the fund helps people, Rice explained that the monies can provide this type of emergency assistance, while also funding services that will help needy families gain employment, which in-turn benefits the local economy.
While in the past the Holiday Fund has been a 2-to-1 match (for every $1 that's donated, a total of $2 is given), this year's quadruple match is made possible through a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act TANF Emergency Contingency Fund -- federal stimulus funds. These funds will go directly to help needy families rather than through a specific nonprofit organization. Through a unique opportunity, rather than through a specific nonprofit organization, financial aid will be used to make sure these families have the basic necessities and tools to gain and maintain employment.
Rice said that the Tri-Valley Regional Initiative was formed this year for this purpose and the Pleasanton Weekly, through the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, will distribute the funds to help families in the region living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. The focus is to help stabilize these families during the current economic downturn, meeting short-term or one-time needs, such as acquiring rental housing, and at the same time helping the wage earners in these families re-enter the workforce and strengthen their job skills through job-seeking and job-readiness training, employment-related education and vocational training, paid internships and subsidized employment.
During the project period, the Tri-Valley Community Foundation will expand its existing team of community outreach workers already engaged with the target population to identify and make contact with qualified families in need of project services. Working with each qualified family, they will utilize financial resources provided by the Holiday Fund, including the 4-to-1 matching components, to identify and deliver those forms of assistance and services that will have the most impact on family stability and employment development within the limited project period, which ends in September 2010.
The foundation currently staffs school-based community outreach workers at some local schools and a school-based food pantry serving low-income families in the community. The 2009 Tri-Valley Regional Initiative and the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund will build on what the foundation is already doing, which will include supporting the addition of mental health outreach workers to the foundation's outreach team already working with low-income Tri-Valley families.
According to Rice, here is how the process will work:
- The outreach worker will refer the wage earner and family members to partnering organizations that will provide those identified with assistance and services;
- Following up with the family and partner organizations to ensure that referrals are successful, to provide ongoing support for the family, and to document wage earner and family outcomes;
- Partner organizations will invoice the foundation for assistance and services provided;
- Families will not receive cash to procure goods and services as part of this project.
In addition to identifying the short-term assistance and services to be provided during the project period, the action plan for each family will include longer term wage-earner and family goals and a well-defined plan for reaching those goals, developed through consultation with the outreach worker and through a weekly support group for families participating in the project.
In addition to working with the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund to seek public donations, the foundation will also partner with the Tri-Valley Business Council to identify and develop opportunities for subsidized employment and paid internships, and with Las Positas College and its on-campus CalWORKs program to identify and develop job training and work-related education opportunities for project participants.
Together, The Holiday Fund is also partnering with Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and his staff to streamline coordination with county agencies, providing assistance and services to families served by the project.
"Since the economic downturn, my office has experienced a significant increase in calls from Tri-Valley residents seeking assistance with basic needs," Haggerty said. "The ARRA Emergency Contingency Fund will provide us with additional resources to assist Tri-Valley families in times of crisis by providing emergency food, emergency housing, utility costs, and school supplies."