Institutions across the city of Berkeley are reaching out to those in need this holiday season, filling hearts, minds and stomachs.
According to Berkeley Food Pantry director Dharma Galang, the Berkeley Food Pantry, one such organization, distributes holiday foods, including turkey thighs and hams, to households in Berkeley and Albany. The vacation program is made possible by a grant from the East Bay Times-sponsored Share the Spirit campaign, which the Pantry has applied to for at least a decade, she noted.
âIt has been an incredibly stressful time,â said Galang. “(We) try to provide good service and reduce that stress level so that they know if they have an emergency there is a place they can go and they don’t have to worry.”
The challenges for the pantry include an increase in food prices, a decrease in holiday donations compared to last year, and the still busy nature of the holiday season, Galang added. People who want to help the pantry should donate money or holiday-themed shelf-stable foods, she noted.
Meanwhile, at the Dorothy Day House, organizers are planning a community vacation lunch to celebrate the homeless people the organization serves, according to Director of Development and Marketing Brittany Hotaling.
“In many cases, people in difficulty or (who) have found themselves experiencing homelessness have no one in their families to turn to,” Hotaling said in an email. âThe employees and volunteers of Dorothy Day House are that family and community for so many in need. “
The lunch is the first of its kind hosted by the Dorothy Day House and will take place on December 19, Hotaling added.
The Berkeley Police Department is also helping those in need this month. According to Lt. Veronica Rodrigues, who oversees BPD’s Community Services Office, the department is organizing a toy drive to benefit the Berkeley Junior Jacket Football and Cheer and Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency program, which help underprivileged and homeless families in the city.
âEvery policeman has entered this profession to help people,â Rodrigues said in an email. “This program is an opportunity for us to really help in a significantly beneficial and impactful way.”
The program began in November 2020 following past difficulties participating in Toys for Tots, according to Rodrigues. They are looking for new, unwrapped toys suitable for children aged 4 to 16 before their last donation date on December 16, she said.
Also in the spirit of freebies, the Berkeley Holiday Fund is preparing to send 1,144 “modest” checks – about $ 130 on average – to individuals and families in need, according to fund co-chair Andrew Williams. Although Williams acknowledged that the checks would not be life changing, he said they made “an individual’s life a little better” at this time of year.
The century-old charity is partnering with 29 social service agencies to identify the recipients of the checks, Williams noted. This year’s donations come largely from around 450 individual donors, he added.
âThey really are the neighbors who help the neighbors here in Berkeley,â Williams said. âWe let our citizens know that we care about them – we are there for them. “
Contact Gabe Classon at [emailÂ protected], and follow him on Twitter at @GabeClasson.