Sitting at a lavishly set
banquet table surrounded by loved ones enjoying a holiday meal it could be easy
to forget about the less fortunate.
There are multiple nonprofit organizations in the Imperial Valley staffed by real-life heroes who make it their priority to help those in need before helping themselves. For local residents and businesses, lending a hand to them is as easy as picking up the phone or sending an email or social-media message.
Spread the Love
Maricella Moreno, the vice president of Spread the Love, described the diversity of methods the charity has to aid the needy.
“We help out the homeless community with food
bags, clothing, hygiene, birth certificates, California ID’s, or anything else
they ask for,” she said, explaining what goes on at the El Centro-based
Spread the Love has a
special year-round program reuniting the homeless with their families.
“When a homeless person
comes looking to get home, we reach out to their family wherever they may be in
the U.S., check if it is O.K. with them and as long as there is Greyhound (bus service), we will get
Moreno continued, “We’ve
been open for four years and have helped to reunify 300 families through
Volunteers at Spread the Love
make Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for those in need.
“We offer ready-to-go
Thanksgiving meals cooked by volunteers from the community. For Christmas,
different community members help make stockings with different gifts,” Moreno
Spread the Love volunteers
hand out meals and gifts on Thanksgiving and Christmas on the corner of Fifth
Street and Park Avenue near the Salvation Army office.
Those interested in
helping Spread the Love may contact the charity through its website at www.spreadthelovecharityiv.org or by
calling (760) 460-4013.
Amanda Venuti, board
member and center volunteer, explained the organization has a “Feed the
“We’ve been doing this
since we opened the center. A misconception is that it’s only for the LGBT
Community,” she said. ”It’s for everyone, not just the LGBT community. We take
our leftovers and break up into teams and drive around town delivering food to
anyone who looks like they need it.”
The center holds an
outdoor buffet-style event on Thanksgiving at which anyone in need can get a
“People who come to the
event can eat there or get their food to go. Events like this help us get
around the stigma that we are only here to help the LGBT community. We are here
to help anyone who needs it,” Venuti said.
The LGBT’s Feed the
Community event will be held outside its community center on 1073 W. Ross Ave.,
suite E, Thanksgiving from noon-4 p.m. and is open to anyone in need.
Those interested in
volunteering or receiving services from the LGBT Resource Center may visit www.ivlgbtcenter.com or call (760)
Cindy Alba, the executive director at the Neighborhood house in Calexico, said the organization offers a plethora services throughout the year and specific events during the holidays.
“We have a shelter for
women and children with 28 beds, a preschool with a capacity of 254 children,
emergency food, and a volunteer program,” she explained.
The organization is
waiting to hear back from the county about its proposed contract to house more
homeless, Alba added.
All are invited to
participate in the regularly held workshops at the Neighborhood House on topics
such as how to buy a house, how to have a successful yard sale or how to start
your own business.
The Neighborhood House
has a long history of providing for those in need during the holidays, Alba
continued: “For more than 24 years we have cooked a meal on Thanksgiving Day
for the homeless and women and children and seniors that cannot afford a meal.”
The Neighborhood House’s
Thanksgiving Day meal has grown so large it is now held in Calexico’s Community
Center, 707 Dool Ave., from 6-8 p.m.
Neighborhood House will
host its annual Christmas Festival at Border Park after Calexico’s Christmas
parade on Dec. 14. The event will include vendors, food and beverages.
“We have organized the
Christmas Festival for 16 years to help raise money for the shelter and local vendors
during the holidays,” Alba said.
Those interested in
volunteering or receiving services at the Calexico Neighborhood House may visit
www.nhclx.org or call (760) 357-6875.
I.V. Food Bank
The Imperial Valley Food Bank has been in the headlines lately after building a larger and more functional facility at 486 W. Aten Blvd. in Imperial.
“The I.V. Food Bank
serves over 20,000 people a month,” noted Stephanie Campos, its executive assistant.
“We help people with emergency food if need be and refer them to a distribution
site closer to where they live.”
The I.V. Food Bank was
designed as a warehouse to distribute food efficiently by creating 36
distribution sites throughout the Imperial Valley. Add in the other local organizations,
such as Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army, and the Food Bank’s
distribution sites rise to more than 60.
Alba Sanchez, Food Bank programs
manager, explained, “Our biggest program is the emergency assistance program
where families qualify through their income. When people call into us looking
for services, we refer them to a distribution (site).”
Because food for
emergency services is not covered under the USDA program the center relies on
food drives to be able to offer emergency food to families.
The program manager
explained why demand rises in the Imperial Valley during winter months, saying,
“We have had a higher demand for food in the past four to five months. During
the holidays demand goes up. Migrant farming families that return during the
winter raise the demand.”
When asked about the Food
Bank’s current food supply, Sanchez replied, “Right now, thanks to God, yes, under
the USDA program we have plenty of food.”
The I.V. Food Bank has an
adequate number of volunteers but could always use more. For more information
regarding volunteering, donating, or receiving services visit www.ivfoodbank.com
or call (760) 370-0966.
Bag Rain or Shine
Through her seemingly inexhaustible service, Brown Bag Coalition founder Maribel Padilla keeps Calexico’s homeless safe from hopelessness. The Calexico based nonprofit organizes meals for the homeless every day of the year.
a daily basis we provide dinner, rain or shine, at Border Park,” Padilla said. “Those
meals are made by volunteers on a regular basis–by individuals, businesses and
Bag kicks its operations into high gear during the holidays hosting multiple
meals and events during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Thanksgiving Day from 1 to 3 (p.m.) at Our Lady of Guadalupe Men’s Shelter we
will provide haircuts, showers and clothes, like button-up shits, socks,
underwear pants and shoes for the homeless.”
shelter is located at 545 Encinas Ave.
on the holiday, the Brown Bag Coalition will move its festivities to Calexico’s
Senior Center at 707 Dool adjacent to Community Center.
3-5 p.m. we will move to the Senior Citizens Hall behind the Community Center and
show the movie Coco in Spanish and serve popcorn, nachos, sodas and candy,”
game of loteria from 5-7 p.m. will follow the movie. Dinner will be served to
the homeless and senior citizens from 7-8:30 p.m.
said she expects attendance of at least 60.
Christmas, the Coalition will host its annual dinner for the homeless on Dec.
21 at physician Tien Vo’s new clinic at 222 E. Cole Blvd. in Calexico.
with the homeless, Brown Bag invites one family from each of the 13 school
districts in Calexico, two families from the Cancer Resource Center and two
families from Amigos de Alejandro to the Christmas posada.
the Brown Bag Coalitions is constantly serving the community, it also requires
constant support. Volunteers and donations are always needed, Padilla added, especially
around the holidays. Those interested in supporting the nonprofit may call (760)
997-2140 or visit Brown Bag Coalition Facebook page.