Escondido, CA
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Interfaith faces many holiday challenges

This year Interfaith Community Services will be helping more people than ever during the holidays—with fewer resources than they usually have. Needless to say, they can use your help, both financial and volunteer.

The Times-Advocate spoke to Interfaith CEO Greg Anglea, who said, “There are more people who need our help this holiday season than in many, many years. The result of COVID and many people being out of work and the challenges for those who are working with childcare and education up in the air.”

The needs are greater. Interfaith traditionally has an adopt-a-family program where community members can take a name of a family and “adopt” them and shop for them and buy Christmas gifts and food. You can sign up for this program until November 6.

The Adopt-a-Family website has been updated with easy links to donate monetarily; adopt-a-family; host a donation drive. The donation drive link will provide a list of items for children, teens (a group often overlooked during the holidays), and adults with a focus on cold weather necessities and essential items. 

The most essential food needs include canned chicken and tuna, macaroni and cheese, dried beans, pasta sauce in cans or jars, dried pasta, peanut butter and jelly or jam, cereal such as oatmeal and breakfast items and snacks such as individual bags of chips, cookies, granola bars and fruit snacks. 

Most needed essential hygiene items include deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and shower gel, sunscreen and chap stick, small packages of handwipes and razors.

“We expect to see an increase in individuals and families reaching out to us this holiday season through our basic needs services which the holiday gift bags will support,” said Anglea.

If you miss that deadline you can go out and shop for any family who needs help.  

Interfaith is moving a lot of formerly homeless into housing, “So we have a big need for small household items, anything that would go into a small or studio apartment,” said Anglea. “We’re moving on average three to four households into homes every week. People who are moving into apartment homes of their own. Most have some belongings. They can also help with holiday gifts.”

There are also opportunities for socially distanced volunteering, he said.

Some things have changed dramatically due to COVID-19.  “We traditionally would do a sit down Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner. This year we will be doing a drive-through,” said Anglea.

Donations to help this outreach or gifts to support the Adopt-a-Family program or Interfaith’s overall se

Besides having more needs to address and fewer resources, Interfaith’s expenses have increased “significantly,” said Anglea.

From March 1, 2020 – October 15, 2020 Interfaith has spent $2,064,786 on COVID-related expenses.   “We have been very fortunate to receive $521,492 in COVID-designated donations, though even with that we still have a loss of more than $1.5MM related to COVID,” said Anglea.  “All the more important that Escondido residents in a position to give consider special year end gifts as we continue to meet all-time high demands for our services; including rental assistance, employment, housing, and overall self-sufficiency.”   

“Our overall agency budget increased more than 20 percent this calendar year, not including one-time expenses to rearrange our work spaces, install Plexiglas barriers, purchase appropriate PPEs (personal protective equipment), modify our shelter and how they operate,” said Anglea. “The 20 percent is above and beyond those one-time expenses.”

This is a major concern. “We were really blessed with a tremendous outpouring of help in the spring when hundreds of people who never gave before, gave,” he said. “And from a lot of longtime supporters who traditionally made gifts this time of year. We rely upon those donations.” The question is, will the people who gave in the spring be able to give again now?

No one expected the COVID crisis to last as long as it has. “The needs are significantly more important now. Now we are helping people get into new careers. That takes more time and resources,” he said, adding, “I don’t think any of us could have foreseen the truly transformative impact COVID has had on the community. We’ve seen our low income neighbors really get hit the hardest. Some in tourism, restaurants and hospitality have lost their jobs entirely. And when people do get back to work they have to handle childcare.”

Interfaith does do some childcare, although not a lot. “We do it for families we are doing case managing for,” Anglea explained. “Everything we do is customized for the situation. For some, it might be a car repair to get to work. For another it might be child care, or even work boots. To get them to the point where they don’t need our help anymore. We have some government support but we rely on our private supporters.”

They are still working out the details for Thanksgiving dinner. “We would like to be able to provide a drive-through service for anybody the day before Thanksgiving. Come by and we will provide everything you need to serve a meal in your own home,” he said.

He noted that some organizations such as the Salvation Army will also be providing meals on that day (see separate article, this edition.) 

Anyone who needs help can drop by Interfaith’s headquarters at 550 West Washington Ave. “Anybody can come by and meet with one of our volunteers and we will share what resources we have and go from there.”   Call 760-489-6380, ext. 204: Office or 760-489-6380: Front Desk.

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