By Vince Meehan
The holiday season is a time for giving, but also a time for love and caring. And that love and caring typically extends beyond family and friends. It’s a time to give to those not as fortunate, even if they are complete strangers. But many people who would like to give do not know exactly the best way to help, so they rely on established foundations that do this every year. And many times, these foundations need volunteers to distribute the donations as much as the donations themselves. However you wish to help, there is definitely a foundation out there that can use your resources to help ensure that the less fortunate receive additional support this holiday season.
Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank
The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief organization in San Diego County, and serves an average of 550,000 people per month here locally. They partner with nearly 500 nonprofits to ensure that families in need receive nutritious and health food items. One of their major partners is the Albertsons Companies, which also includes Vons here in San Diego.
The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food also encourages schools, churches, businesses and community groups to host a food drive of their own to help their neighbors. This can be done by going to SanDiegoFoodBank.org and accessing the Host a food drive button. On that same page, you will see many other programs that can be accessed year-round for those in need. For all donation and volunteer opportunities, go to SanDiegoFoodBank.org
Father Joe’s Villages
Father Joe’s Villages has been the premiere homelessness service organization in San Diego for over 70 years when it comes to providing services for our homeless population. It has gone from a simple soup kitchen to now providing housing, health and dental care, and job training for their clients so they can achieve true independence and join the community once again. As with most foundations, they are busy year-round, however, the holiday season brings special programs. Deacon Jim F. Vargas, OFS is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Father Joe’s Village and sees firsthand the effects of homelessness on our children.
“Were preparing for Christmas, and Christmas is a special time at our village because it gives us an opportunity to really – especially for the kids – to provide some normalcy for them. Because you can imagine their situation isn’t very typical,” noted Vargas. “We serve 350 families – to put it in perspective for you – and about 900 children through our programs and our services. So it’s a lot of families that we support and a lot of children.”
On December 9, Vargas will host an event at the village designed to bring some holiday magic to the kids. “We’ll have the Old Town Trolley – which for years and years has partnered with us – and will put together a Christmas event, and that’s always a lot of fun,” Vargas said. “Where the kids are able to have fun and we’ll be able to provide some gifts for them and they will also be able to see Santa.”
Due to Covid, the event had to be scaled down a bit last year, but Vargas is confident that the event will go on as normal. This includes hopping aboard the trolley for a fun nostalgic ride. “We do it in a very safe way obviously, so there’s distancing and masks involved because we want to make sure that our kids are safe, and that everybody is safe. So it’s both Santa and Mrs. Clause actually who will join us for that event.”
The village typically provides up to 4000 meals each day year-round to their clients, but they plan on doing a special event on Christmas Eve with a festive ambiance with holiday music and decorations. And this year, there will again be a shopping event designed to save Christmas for the children housed at the village.
“We have a group within our organization called The Ladies Guild who focus on providing support and services to our village, primarily to the children,” Vargas added. “They been around for oh my gosh – 35 or 40 years – and these ladies are a powerhouse! They organize fundraisers and the money that they raise goes to benefit the village – and the kids primarily in some way.” The Ladies Guild will take the parents of the children to the Wal-Mart Supercenter in El Cajon who has sponsored the event. Wal-Mart will open up the store to the ladies in the morning before the store officially opens. Then the parents can pick out whatever they want to give their children as holiday gifts. Afterwards, they go back to the village for a gift-wrapping party. The gifts will then be presented to the children on Christmas Eve.
Father Joe’s Villages is always looking for volunteers or donations, anybody interested should go to my.neighbor.org
San Diego Pride
San Diego Pride is notorious for its army of dedicated volunteers as well as its commitment to partner with fellow non-profits. But Pride is best known for its mission to serve the San Diego LGBTQ community with all sorts of programs and services. Fernando Zweifach López, the Executive Director of San Diego Pride, is proud of how the organization serves the community. “San Diego Pride is the most philanthropic pride in the world, we’ve given out over three million dollars to LGBTQ organizations – mostly here locally – but we also give around the country and around the world,” said Lopez
SD Pride regularly doles out funds raised by the annual Pride festival in the form of community grants. However, with the last two festivals being cancelled, that program was temporarily suspended. However, Lopez says that due to some creative fiscal restructuring, Pride will begin to once again provide these community grants. Pride will host a holiday mixer at Rich’s (1051 University Avenue) on Thursday, Dec. 16 where they will make a formal announcement as to who will receive the grants.
Another holiday event, which will serve as a fundraiser, will be the “Home for the Holidays” revue at Viejas Casino featuring some of San Diego’s top drag queens performing celebrity impersonations. This is part of a new partnership with Viejas who donates everything from the performers fee, the staging and even the staff. Lopez says that this especially helps the performers who have been on hiatus during Covid. 100% of the funds go to San Diego Pride, so this show will serve as a huge holiday fundraiser for Pride’s services and programs.
Pride is also serving the community this holiday season with health-related services. Lopez says they wants to help the community to stay safe and Pride helps accomplish that.
“One of the things that we started doing this year as vaccines became available is vaccine clinics. In March, we hosted a trans-centered vaccination clinic where we vaccinated over 400 folks from the trans community here locally. And so now those folks qualify for booster shots. So we’re doing active outreach and working with other community partners to make sure that folks in our trans community are getting their vaccines and boosters and we’re also offering flu vaccines. And that’s just another way that we can help to protect our community and make sure that folks feel a little more safe gathering together so I’m really excited that were doing that.”
San Diego Pride is also providing volunteers to help some of the other local community groups who are hosting holiday events such as the Bankers Hill Community Group. This group hosts monthly luncheons for disabled folks at the Bankers Hill Community Room and will be serving a special holiday meal alongside volunteers from Pride.
Go to SDPride.org.