Sierra Community House consolidation helping Tahoe, Truckee communities through crisis
Special to the Sierra Sun
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
For more information about the Sierra Community House or to donate to its COVID-19 relief fund, visit https://sierracommunityhouse.org.
To help fulfill its mission of empowering Tahoe-Truckee families through crisis intervention, hunger relief, strengthening family bonds, and providing legal sources, those involved say the consolidation of four major entities into the Sierra Community House could not have come at a better time.
The new Sierra Community House operates out of the same locations that used to housed Project MANA (now called the Hunger Relief Program), Tahoe SAFE Alliance, North Tahoe Family Resource Center, and the Family Resource Center of Truckee yet became one entity under the Sierra Community House umbrella in July 2019.
Its services span Lake Tahoe and Truckee in four counties and its much larger staff allows the nonprofit to provide food distribution and additional resources to help people get through these troubling times through its offices in Kings Beach, Incline Village, and Truckee.
Pre-COVID era, the Sierra Community House had four distribution centers where people could show up in person to receive food and resources. The Sierra Community House used to serve 180 households per week, a number that has jumped to 562 families in recent times (about 1,600 individuals).
“It’s a 200% increase,” says Sierra Community House Hunger Relief Program Manager Anne Rarick. During the regular distributions in pre-coronavirus times, the Sierra Community House knew all the families, saw all the same faces, but COVID-19 brought on a new demographic.
“We would see a spike (in people who needed assistance) in the shoulder seasons like when the ski resorts would close, but now we’re seeing people who have an immediate loss of income,” Rarick says.
With so many people out of work, the Sierra Community House can take the burden of food costs out of the equation so financially struggling families can put their dwindling funds towards paying rent and utilities.
Along with the huge surge in food distribution, calls into the Sierra Community House’s 24-hour crisis hotline tripled; staff is fielding more requests about legal support in regards to evictions, unemployment rights, and basic needs; and it continues to help support domestic abuse victims during the shelter-in-place mandate.
On its food distribution side, the Sierra Community House has become delivery only, with about 45 volunteers who pack food boxes and deliver necessities to North Lake Tahoe families ranging from Tahoma all the way to Incline Village and up to Truckee.
“There are no qualifications to receive services, no proof of ID required,” Rarick said. Pre-COVID, people found out about the Sierra Community House through word-of-mouth and if they needed help then they just showed up to a distribution center, but now all assistance is done through phone calls and emails. In a week, 95% of its services that were done in person are now done remotely.
“All we need is the person’s name, full address, phone number, and the number of people in their household and then they are put on our distribution list,” Rarick said of the food distribution arm of its services. People can either call 775-545-4083 or email email@example.com with that information.
Once a family signs up to receive Sierra Community House food essentials, it puts together a 20-pound box of nonperishable food items based off the MyPlate FDA recommendations.
“We include a few cans of fruit and vegetables, a protein like canned tuna, beef, pork, or salmon, grains, lentils, pasta sauce, shelf-stable milk,” she said. The Sierra Community House is also sure to include additional materials that can help people get through COVID-19, like possibly a legal program that spells out how to negotiate rent with a landlord or pay bills. Food beneficiaries also receive recipes so that they have ideas of how to prepare the food they receive in their boxes.
The Sierra Community House has been staggering its deliveries, going through Truckee one week and lakeside Tahoe City to Incline Village the next.
“Pre-COVID we did distribution once per week and we eventually want to get back to that,” Rarick said.
Any changes in food distribution are communicated through its website at sierracommunityhouse.org or through its 24-hour community helpline at 800-736-1060 the Friday before the upcoming week.
SOME SILVER LININGS
While times are tough for many COVID-19 impacted families right now, Rarick is seeing some silver linings.
“It’s awesome to see the different programs that have come out of this crisis,” she said. The Sierra Community House generally gets a lot of referrals but with community partners really stepping up, like the Sierra Relief Kitchen providing hot meals, Sierra Senior Services doing the Meals on Wheels program, the Boys & Girls Club, and more, it’s turned into one big collaboration to help Tahoe’s less fortunate.
“We have amazing staff and we’re so lucky for the consolidation. We have a full accounting system now. Before it was just five to six people, now it’s 60-plus. We have a lot of administration help and building capacity in our future. We’re going to see big economic change in our area (following COVID-19), so it’s been great to see people come together in a situation like this.
“And we’re getting days off,” Rarick chuckled. Due to community support, along with donations, grants, other food banks, and volunteers, Rarick said the new Sierra Community House is just ramping up.
“Between the former Sierra Community House and Project MANA we’ve been feeding the community since 1991, and we’re not going anywhere, we’re not stopping,” Rarick said.
Kayla Anderson is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in South Lake Tahoe. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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