Guest Column: Community steps up to feed hungry
Ryan Summerlin August 21, 2013
“Yes, it is true, we have hundreds of hungry individuals and families living in North Lake Tahoe” — a line I often find myself saying when asked about my work as executive director of Project MANA, a food relief agency in existence for 22 years in our region.
In fact, last year we provided emergency food nearly 10,000 times to more than 4,000 individuals through our four weekly food distributions, our “Let’s Talk Turkey” Thanksgiving distribution, and our food delivery program for community members restricted to their homes.
This is the reality of living in a tourist-based area with a huge labor force that makes minimum wage coupled with a high cost of living. People and families showing up at our food distributions are our hard working poor — families struggling to pay bills, provide for their families who sometimes come up short.
Our challenge in serving people is that often those showing up for food distributions have multiple issues they are dealing. I am thinking of Bernice (name changed for privacy) who comes monthly to our food distribution in Kings Beach.
Bernice has two children under seven, works full-time along with juggling her single motherhood. She has no family or support system in place as she is new to the area. She is recovering from past trauma and needs counseling, legal services and child care services. Our staff in not equipped to take on the multiple needs of Bernice though they are the ones she trusts.
In can be very frustrating to see someone show up with multiple needs but not be able to help.
This is why I am so excited about Community House, a new model for serving people, set to open this fall in Kings Beach. Community House will be where we do our food distribution in Kings Beach, starting this fall (we will still keep our distributions at other locations and admin office in Incline) and now, people like Bernice will have access to a variety of services, right on site.
Our staff will now be able to personally introduce Bernice to other service partners located at Community House and get her going on accessing a variety of classes, resources and people who can help her finally step out of crisis and on to a more stable life for she and her children.
Community House is an innovative model of providing services that makes it comfortable and easy for community members. It is located in a convenient place (corner of Bear and Trout in Kings Beach) and looks more like a community center than a crisis center. Families will be able to come take classes and enjoy themselves along with getting the services they need to stay on track.
Project MANA wants to take the opportunity to publicly thank those who have given to Community House campaign over the past few months. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Recently I personally signed more than 700 letters, asking many of you to give to Community House. Many of you have responded and the checks are coming in.
Also, as a team, we (Tahoe SAFE Alliance, North Tahoe Family Resource Center, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation) launched an online campaign on Crowd Rise and again, donations are coming in from around the country.
Thank you so much and if you would like to be part of this exciting effort to care for our community members in need, please take a look at our Crowd Rise campaign and make a donation today: www.crowdrise.com/communityhousefinishline/fundraiser/communityhouse.
Heidi Allstead is executive director of Project MANA. Learn more at www.projectmana.org.