Looking for Ways to Help this Holiday Season?

As the holiday season draws near, many residents of Contra Costa County are interested in how they can help those in our extended community who are less fortunate and in need of assistance. The following are several worthy programs the County partners with, and which could use your help.

Every day, thousands of people in our community struggle to meet their basic nutritional needs. The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties distributes food directly to people in need through their many programs. You can make a difference right now by contributing to the cause, either by volunteering to collect or distribute food through the food bank programs, or by making an online donation. Monetary donations are preferred over canned goods, because very dollar contributed provides the Food Bank with $3 in buying power, providing two full meals.

Contra Costa and Solano Counties have been competing since 2004 for the prized Big Apple Trophy in the “Counties Care Food Fight” to raise money for the Food Bank.  The trophy and bragging rights pass back and forth, but the real winners are the hungry of both counties. More than $1.7M has been raised by the two counties to help feed the community. The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors compete with each other to raise the most donations, with the winner getting to take home the Little Apple Trophy. Visit the Food Bank’s website at www.foodbankccs.org to sign up to volunteer or donate.

Another very worthy cause is VESTIA (Volunteer & Emergency Services Team in Action), a non-profit organization that serves individuals and families receiving benefits from Contra Costa County’s Employment & Human Services Department (EHSD). VESTIA is a safety net for low-income children and families in Contra Costa County that provides supplemental support to clients when other resources are not available. Every year during the holiday season, VESTIA sponsors the Holiday Helpers Warehouse, which provides holiday assistance of gifts, clothing and food to low-income children. They accept gifts through Friday, December 7th at their office at 500 Ellinwood Way, in Pleasant Hill, and can arrange for pick-up if needed. For more information, please call Volunteer & Emergency Services at (925) 521-5061 or visit their website at www.vestiainc.org.

Your faith congregation may already participate in the Winter Nights Family Shelter program and you can volunteer directly. If your faith congregation doesn’t participate, you can inquire about how to become a host organization. Faith congregations provide space, meals, and volunteers on a two-week rotating basis to homeless families in Contra Costa. Professional staff supervise the shelter at all times. The Winter Nights program has family-centric goals for supporting the homeless which include; providing shelter and food to homeless families throughout the winter, helping homeless families find sustainable housing, keeping homeless children in the school from which they went homeless, helping homeless children achieve at grade level, encouraging reading habits, and keeping homeless families together during the stressful period of homelessness. To donate or for more information about the program, visit their website at www.cccwinternights.org, or call (925) 933-6030.

The Contra Costa Crisis Center is another worthy non-profit in need of your help. Volunteers work year-round to keep people alive and safe, helping them work through crises, and connecting them with culturally relevant resources in the community. The crisis center has several programs including 211, the national toll-free phone number to call 24 hours per day for information about local health and social services, enabling people to find out about valuable and up to date resources in their community.  They also provide homeless services, grief counseling, Help Me Grow – a system focusing on early detection, referral, and treatment for children with developmental or behavioral concerns, and the Share the Spirit Grant Making Project.

You can donate to the Contra Costa Crisis Center with a monetary gift or by shopping at their Leftovers Thrift Shop, which is a mini-department store benefiting the Crisis Center located at 2281 Olympic Boulevard in Walnut Creek. To donate online, visit www.crisis-center.org.

The Contra Costa Housing Security Fund is a county-wide community fund that covers costs that can prevent many people, including seniors, veterans and families, from getting back into housing. It also protects participating property owners who offer screened renters an opportunity for housing.  Your donation to the Contra Costa Housing Security Fund can help end homelessness. Contra Costa Continuum of Care homeless service providers distribute the funds. To donate online, visit www.fundraise.richmondcf.org/give/99297/#!/donation/checkout. For questions about the fund, please email [email protected].

The Monument Crisis Center nearby in Concord also relies heavily on volunteers and donations. They provide the working poor and low income with support, addressing essential needs that can include providing food and medical or dental care. They host an annual Holiday Food Box Drive, which feed families in need by accepting boxes filled with all the trimmings.  To see the list of suggested items for a trimming box, or for more information about the organization, visit their website at www.monumentcrisiscenter.org.

Lastly, please join me and my District 2 Staff for some holiday treats. I will be hosting a holiday open house on Wednesday, December 12th, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at our Danville office located at 309 Diablo Road. This is an informal opportunity for me to personally thank so many of you who make a difference throughout Contra Costa County.

My office is here to serve the residents of Contra Costa County District 2, which includes San Ramon, Danville, Alamo, Walnut Creek, Saranap, Parkmead, Lafayette, Moraga, Canyon and Orinda.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can provide you with additional information on this topic or on other County issues.  I can be reached at [email protected] or (925) 957-8860.