We Are Seeing Higher Numbers than Two Months Ago…

Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay (JFCS East Bay), a treasured client of PRG, is at the forefront of one of the largest resettlement efforts in US history. Through the support of hundreds of donors, staff, and volunteers, we are proud to say that the agency is doing an exceptional job.

When Afghanistan fell in August, leaving thousands of Afghans in danger from the Taliban, JFCS East Bay went into hyperdrive to prepare to offer safety and refuge to new arrivals in the East Bay. As a longstanding resettlement agency, JFCS East Bay was able to immediately step up to provide housing, case management, food, furniture, household goods, and legal assistance to hundreds of refugees. In just the last three and half months, JFCS East Bay has welcomed 215 Afghan refugees to the community. To put this into perspective, in a typical year, the agency may resettle about 120 refugees.

And more people are coming every day.

We applaud our cherished partner, JFCS East Bay, and the hundreds of supporters who have contributed the time and money to support these efforts and sustain them for the foreseeable future.

Please read JFCS East Bay’s blog here https://jfcs-eastbay.org/urgent-afghan-evacuation, which chronicles in more detail the process they have taken to be “heroes,” including media coverage they have received from the New York Times and others.  To support their efforts, you can make a financial donation or check out their wish list!

Jewish Family & Community Services East Bay Mission

Rooted in Jewish values and historical experiences and inspired by the strengths of the diverse communities we serve, JFCS East Bay promotes the well-being of individuals and families by providing essential mental health and social services through every stage of life.

Providing Youth Advocacy and Career Services during COVID

Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) was founded in 1971 to provide a constructive alternative to juvenile hall for runaway and at-risk youth. Their formula incorporates three pillars: housing, counseling and career.

This month’s HERO is Dawnn Montgomery, a Career Services Specialist + Housing for SAY. She has worked for the non-profit agency based in Santa Rosa since April 2019. Her position at SAY allows her to provide immediate response to youth in crisis who experience homelessness, extreme trauma, and struggle with moderate to severe mental health issues including substance abuse.

Dawnn supports clients who are cultural and socioeconomically diverse who are in short-term and long-term housing programs with immediate needs to reach employment and educational goals. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Dawnn’s early priorities were to quickly focus the services for everyone currently involved in the program, especially as job insecurity would be on the rise.

“Like most of us, we didn’t know how long this was going to last,” said Dawnn. “So early on we took a targeted approach to focus on our youth who may be experiencing gaps in their wages, assistance in information and tracking of stimulus checks, and help with unemployment filings and process.”

The ages of the youth primarily served by these programs are between 18-24. The career services focus is to begin by helping youth where they are at, obtain and sustain employment, and balance time management and positive patterns to maintain their work schedules. They also work to develop life and career skills, such as conflict resolution and management, and asking for raises.

One upside, Dawnn shared, were so many essential jobs were still available and many in the programs were able to continue work. “We did have to switch gears and prepare them for online interviews over Zoom. Our mock interviews went all online, so we were really able to move quickly,” shared Dawnn. Santa Rosa Junior Community College provided laptops and wifi for SAY.

“With the support they get from SAY, so many of these youth have been very resilient during the pandemic, working hard through the issues and barriers COVID brought,” reflected Dawnn. “We have all been on the same page – even with our skeleton crew. SAY also has been able to retain all employees and manage the new safety precautions, such as wearing masks all the time.”

“We are making a difference to our community. It is so worth it,” said HERO Dawnn.

Providing Food, Support and Care during COVID

COTS

One of the most basic and vital human needs is having food to eat. In 2020, food insecurity was on the rise for many in the Bay Area, especially for the homeless and those precariously housed.

One organization knows this more than most. For 32 years, the Committee on the Shelterless, COTS, based in Petaluma, CA, assists those experiencing homelessness in finding and keeping housing, increasing self-sufficiency and improving well-being. They provide hot and nutritious meals daily to anyone in need. When COVID-19 hit in March, the team had to move quickly. And squarely at the heart of those plans and shifts was COTS staff member, Chef Janin Harmon.

Chef Janin started with COTS in November 2019 as the Chef of Mary’s Table. From her first days, COTS knew she was someone special to serve their community. “Janin truly cares about serving our shelter residents and those in the community in need of a meal the best possible quality and nutritious meals,” shared Chuck Fernandez, COTS CEO. “They say ‘one first eats with their eyes’ and her meals are just mouth-watering, beautiful and rival pictures in any food magazine!”

Chef Janin had to quickly – practically overnight – move from leading a full-service restaurant to a boxed meal program. In addition to serving the individuals and families in their program, COTS also feeds a significant number of homeless and food-disadvantaged people throughout their community. And their hero Janin has done so for the past nine months without missing a beat.

“My main goal and focus is we are feeding people. So we had to find a way and keep going,” shared Janin.

Janin also recruited her family to step in and get creative to keep the food services working. COTS relies on food picked up from local stores and normally a crew of volunteers would drive around and manage the pick-ups during the week. As all of the volunteers are over 65, COTS could not deploy their trusted and dedicated volunteer network safely during COVID. So Janin’s husband does all the food pick up now.

Despite not having their usual army of volunteers in the Kitchen either, Chef Janin still manages to prepare and serve healthy and delicious meals. From normally working with a crew of 15 down to 4, Janin kept all the food services going for COTS. “I do well under pressure,” commented Janin. “I thrive best in chaotic situations. I don’t mind skiing up the hill!”

In a prior role, Janin was the manager at a popular restaurant chain. One day, her boss asked her to ask the homeless man sleeping in front of the restaurant to move along. “I said to myself, well not without bringing him a cup of coffee first,” reflected Janin. When she returned back inside after talking with him and giving him a warm cup to go, her boss said to Janin that she should go work at a food bank, rather snidely. And Janin thought to herself, you know that is a very good idea.

Janin reflected:

“I remember standing in food lines with my mom. I understand the struggle. It is hard right now. My mom struggled, worked three jobs, I know the feeling of not having. I like being in the position to help people. This work feeds my soul. If people need someone to talk to, solve problems, we will put our heads together and help. We have resources here to help. I love my job every day,…every day.

When you sit down for one of my meals, I want you to forget that you are homeless in that moment. You are at peace with delicious food made with love. Food can be a form of meditation and healing. This is what I want for my community.”

Having worked in the kitchen with Janin, Chuck shared that Janin refuses to turn anyone away for a meal even if they show up after the kitchen closes, and she will always give them something to eat. Always. And before COVID, she could often be seen sitting with some of the shelter residents during mealtime just talking and getting to know them and building a relationship. She is truly a hero!

Visit COTS today to learn more about their programs.

 

 

 

 

The Show Must Go On!

The East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (the “Center”) in Richmond, CA has long been a client of PRG. The Center provides access to the arts to over 4,000 kids ages 3 – 18 through instruction in dance, music, theater and digital arts. Historically, instruction is done in both in the schools in Richmond, as well as at EBCPA’s beautiful site in the historic Winter’s Building in downtown Richmond.

Reaching nearly 9 months into COVID, we are thrilled with their abilities to support their many student families and their move to a virtual instruction model to keep the youth in Richmond performing and dancing, maintaining their expressive outlets to inspire during these difficult times. During this unprecedented year, the Center also went above and beyond to find support for basic living essentials.

Rapid Program Pivot

When COVID hit, the Center recognized quickly staff had to rethink their approach in order to continue their services. Miraculously, within a week or so, 90% of their programs and services were converted into a virtual educational platform. It was a steep learning curve for the staff and faculty with regards to technology, and the transition, while short, was not without its bumps. The team worked diligently to get Faculty set up to be able to work from home, and students were supported and educated on how they were going to receive instruction from home. The local schools did their best to get laptops to students in need, and the Center set up times for students to safely pick up instruments they would be borrowing for the foreseeable future.

Going Beyond the Dance to Meet Basic Living Needs

Thanks to a generous early donor, the Center made cash available to help directly support local families experiencing an immediate crisis for food and housing insecurity, as well as challenges with legal, medical, and government aid access. The faculty jumped-in to provide emotional health support along with tutoring and academic assistance to its students while primary and secondary schools remain closed.

Weeks Turned to Months – More Offerings of Support

During the critical college application process for high school seniors, the Center staff supported 22 senior students this spring through their final application processes, financial aid applications, and the results were all students were accepted and went onto college this fall. A huge win!

Over the summer, the Center pivoted from its normal 8-5pm Summer Intensive Program with diploma students, to open tuition-free group classes. Staff realized how important it was for Faculty to continue to support the kids through the challenges of COVID, understanding their isolation and economic challenges. Fortunately, due to the connection and care the Faculty focused on, only a few students overcome by virtual fatigue, dropped out of the program.

An In-Person to Virtual Gala Event – a HUGE Success!

On September 24, 2020, the Center held their 10th Annual fall Gala. Normally the event is limited to 150 people, the maximum their facility can hold, and the event usually raises around $250K.

This year, like many organizations, the Center pivoted to a virtual event. The new format enabled many more eager supporters to participate. Board, staff and parents hosted virtual tables, and more than 500 people donated to the Center, netting $320K! Videos highlighted Center students, alumni, renowned faculty artists, social justice leaders and their family of supporters. The gala, a mix of pre-recorded and live presentations, highlighted the beauty and resilience of the students in the power of the performing arts to heal.

See the recording of this dynamic event.

Looking Forward

Realizing how the forced move to a virtual platform opened up their audience and donor base, staff will continue to offer a hybrid of live and virtual programs going forward. In an effort to build their virtual capabilities, the Center created a task force to help them map out their needs to thrive in a virtual world, not only around the programs they offer, but potentially inclusive of the needs of their community they serve as they have done this year. They also plan to hire tech help to upgrade their website, train Faculty in virtual platforms, and build out their services in this new online environment.

CONGRATULATIONS to the Center’s staff, faculty and students on such a successful pivot and going above and beyond to meet the needs of their communities and on so many levels of their students and family needs!

 

 

Zoom screenshot of everyone on a BI call

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