With the help of local businesses, schools and community members, several local organizations have launched drives to provide essentials to families and individuals during the holidays.
It is anticipated that ongoing programs will fill food pantry stores and dinner baskets, provide hot meals and warm coats and put toys in the little ones’ hands to help families in need.
“Poverty adds extensive stress to everyday life … Compound that with the general stress of the holiday season and for some individuals and families it can feel insurmountable,” Inyo-Mono Advocates for Community Action Executive Director Lynn Ann Bethel said. “(IMACA’s) food program … is a helping hand, especially in a season that celebrates sharing and giving to others.”
Currently, IMACA’s food pantry is virtually empty but light blue food drive barrels will soon be situated in many locations, making it convenient to donate non-perishable food items. According to Bethel, barrels will be delivered to IMACA’s “holiday food drive partners” as follows:
• Caltrans, early to mid-December.
• Northern Inyo Hospital; Bishop and Lone Pine Joseph’s Bi-Rite; Manor Market; Carroll’s Market and Shell and Chevron markets in Independence; and Southern Inyo Hospital, early November to late December.
• Bishop Vons will get its barrels late November-mid December. Vons’ annual Every Bag Counts program enables shoppers to donate to the barrels by purchasing reasonably-priced, uniform bags containing eight to 10 basic staple food items, a Vons spokesperson explained. Every Bag Counts groceries are discounted, she added, and it’s “easy and convenient” because folks “don’t have to go shopping” for donation items.
• Many Owen Valley schools will receive their barrels from now until late December. As student incentives, some schools will hold homeroom class competitions, with a fun food-based party as the reward for the class that brings in the most food.
Donations may also be made – now and year-round – at 224 S. Main St. in Bishop on weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and at the Lone Pine pantry at 120 S. Main St., Ste. 9 on Wednesdays from noon-2 p.m.
The Bishop pantry is open for food distribution Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-noon; the Lone Pine pantry is open Wednesdays, noon-2 p.m.
In addition to pantry stores, IMACA will also offer holiday dinner food baskets. Holiday food baskets will contain a turkey, stuffing ingredients, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie ingredients, potatoes and yams, said IMACA Food Program Coordinator Glen Cokeley. Turkey Day baskets will be available for pick-up on Monday, Nov. 19; Christmas baskets on Thursday, Dec. 20.
Each eligible household may apply for a Thanksgiving or a Christmas basket but not both. Applications are now being accepted at its Bishop office, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and in Lone Pine on Wednesdays, noon-2 p.m. Applications may also be mailed in to IMACA, P.O. Box 845, Bishop, CA 93515. Applications, available in Spanish and English, must be received no later than Wednesday, Nov. 14 for Thanksgiving baskets and no later than Wednesday, Dec. 12 for Christmas baskets.
Annual household income eligibility guidelines range from $24,545 annual maximum per one-person house hold to $67,970 annual maximum per 10-person household. Income certification applications are accepted on the honor-system. (Holiday baskets are funded in part by California Department of Social Services and its “tax check-off” program but most of the funding comes from community donations, explained Bethel.)
IMACA is also hosting its annual Wish Tree Program to provide holiday gifts for children, ages 13 and younger, who live in low-income Inyo County and Chalfant Valley households. Wish Tree applications, due by Friday, Nov. 30, are available at the Bishop and Lone Pine offices. Call (800) 541-1822 to receive an application by mail.
Cokeley, a 12-year veteran of nonprofit outreach programs, said he has learned that outreach benefits the givers as well as the receivers. Giving takes the focus off of oneself, he said, and even children are never too young to benefit from giving, “It can be life changing. It helps shape their world view,” said Cokeley. “IMACA really is ‘people helping people’ – the ones who give and the ones who receive. I’m the lucky one to be part of the process.”
Bethel added, “IMACA serves as a resource for many individuals and families in need, and our location as well as our experience in reaching out respectfully to the residents of the communities we serve, make us a perfect facilitator for this program.”
IMACA will also receive aid from other organizations. Among them are the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Their employees will donate food items and ornaments for IMACA’s Wish Tree, said USFS Trail Program Coordinator Marty Hornick, one of the coordinators of that effort. And, every Tuesday at the regular 6:15 p.m. Elks Club bingo game at 151 E. Line St., anyone who brings a canned food item will receive one small bingo package in exchange.
By the way, it takes many hands to stock shelves and make baskets so interested volunteers may call Cokeley at (760) 873-8778 ext. 26.
The Salvation Army is also hosting its sixth annual food drive in partnership with Eastern Sierra Transit Authority – it’s called Stuff a Bus. There will be donation boxes on all ESTA buses so riders can make donations on the run. In its culminating event on Saturday, Nov. 17, an ESTA bus will be in the Kmart/Vons parking lot, accepting additional food donations. A mobile KIBS/KBOV radio broadcast unit be also be there and the Ninth Annual Coats for Kids program will be launched as well.
Thanksgiving food box application are being taken weekdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., until Friday, Nov. 9, at The Salvation Army’s ministry at 621 W. Line St.
Each box will include all the fixings for a “traditional meal,” said Rob Bowers, a seven-year Salvation Army soldier. Food boxes will be distributed Monday, Nov. 19. Turkeys are provided by Vons at a substantial discount; several local churches donate gobblers as well.
The Salvation Army is accepting donations at its Cup of Cold Water food bank on West Line Street and at its thrift store at 1180 N. Main St., Ste. 101, which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Thrift store manager Mike Gehringer said it’s a convenient location for Smart & Final shoppers to drop off a few items.
A hot, traditional meal will be served from 12:30-2:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at the West Line Street ministry, to anyone in need, said Salvation Army Corps Officer Lt. Cathie McCulley. On Dec. 20 and 21, the ministry will be providing holiday cheer in the form of children’s coats, toys for kids ages birth to 12th grade and/or food boxes, she added.
Like Cokeley, Bowers said there are definitely perks to giving. “I get satisfaction that I’m doing what God has called me to do – providing assistance for those in need … We get a lot of joy in helping people through the Thanksgiving and holiday season because it’s stressful especially in these economic times. People are full of praise, joy and gratitude.”
Wild Iris Crisis Center will also prepare traditional Thanksgiving food baskets, said Director of Programs Susi Bains. The baskets will be available to Inyo and Mono clientele Nov. 19-20; Christmas food baskets will be available Dec. 18-19. Mammoth Rotary Club members will be donating new toys for Wild Iris clients’ children, also to be distributed at both Wild Iris offices, she added. To make a monetary or new toy donation, contact Wild Iris in Bishop at (760) 873-6601, 387 W. Line St., and in Mammoth Lakes at (760) 934-2491, 625 Old Mammoth Road.