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In tough economy, local groups struggle to give back

Holiday programs aim to help Placer’s neediest
By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein The Press-Tribune
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The St. Vincent de Paul Society is looking for a few good turkeys. Turkey breasts are OK, too. The Roseville-based nonprofit is one of many local organizations reaching out to the community as they approach their busiest time of the year – Thanksgiving and Christmas. But donations aren’t keeping up. “We’re nowhere near where we need to be,” SVDP board president Ray Daniels said this week. As the economy tanks – jobless claims reached a 16-year high, the Labor Department said Thursday – those who feed, clothe and support the needy are noticing an unfortunate correlation: skyrocketing demand for services on the one hand, and a slowdown in giving on the other. At St. Vincent, which operates both a hot-food and food locker program, the group is prepping for a 30-percent increase in demand for its food services. It also provides holiday meals and toys for families enrolled in its transitional housing program. “We’re way down on the amount of food we have in the food locker,” Daniels said. Although Daniels said canned food is always welcome, he singled out meat as especially important. “Even a small turkey or turkey breast,” Daniels said. “Any kind of meat item, we’re always short of that.” And St. Vincent isn’t alone. Many organizations that are providing special holiday services are experiencing trouble filling needs. Sierra Family Services, which is “adopting” 15 families this year – providing them with a complete Christmas meal, children’s toys and other necessities – has managed to find sponsors for four of them so far. The need this year is greater for more basic items, said Auriel Palomar, the executive secretary for SFS who is heading up the effort. “In the past, clothes were needed; now, it’s food,” she said. “It has everything to do with the economy.” Still, those interested in sponsoring a family are given plenty of information on all the family’s needs, including children’s wish lists, ages, even their favorite color. “You’re definitely helping the kids have a good Christmas,” she said. There are a few bright spots. Sunset Christian Center in Rocklin adopted about 30 families identified as in need by the North Roseville REC Center. The families, who live in the Roseville Heights neighborhood, will receive a complete Thanksgiving dinner. But the center, which provides a safe place after school for children in the troubled neighborhood, hasn’t yet lined up anyone to help the same number of families for its Christmas basket program. Doing so involves providing food, gifts and possibly a tree to at least one family, Executive Director Machel Miller said. “This is the low-income part of Roseville,” Miller said. “I’ve got a lot of unemployed fathers. And we are the main hub for this area.” Officials at Abundant Life Fellowship in Roseville expect to have hundreds more families than last year receive provisions as part of its adopt-a-family and toy drive programs. The group offers the program to pretty much anyone who shows up at two distribution dates next month. “This year we may reach almost a thousand kids,” said organizer Becky Stickney. That’s partly because of a new outreach center in South Sacramento, but also because of the economy and higher food prices. “It’s that higher level of low income and lower level of middle income,” she said. It means the group needs more toys than ever. “We’re trying to get the word out because any organization that could do a toy drive makes a huge difference,” she said. “And we accept just any unwrapped toy.” Residents who are interested in contributing to any number of nonprofit groups’ efforts to make the holidays brighter for local families can find a complete guidebook online. The annual holiday needs guide, a joint effort by the Roseville Healthy City Coalition and Adventist Health, was recently posted online at www.roseville.-ca.us/hr/volunteer_center/.