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SCV groups show generosity

Food drives, giveaways struggle to meet growing demands

Posted: November 25, 2009 8:58 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2009 10:00 a.m.
 
Two Santa Clarita churches were able to raise more than $2,000 for the Church of Hope food pantry over the span of a few short hours — just in time for Thanksgiving.

Members of Grace Baptist Church and Copper Hill Community Church each gave $1,000 to city staff who — along with volunteers from the two churches — used the money to buy groceries, including 50 turkeys and other holiday staples, said city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz.

The move was one of several gestures of generosity throughout the Santa Clarita Valley this week, including the handing out of free Thanksgiving meals.

The food for the Church of Hope — which runs a food pantry for underprivileged families and homeless people — was delivered Wednesday afternoon, said Pastor George McLeary.

By 4 p.m., half the donated turkeys had already been given to families, McLeary said. He said he expected all the turkeys to be gone by the end of the day.

“The generosity of people has been overwhelming; it brings tears to your eyes,” McLeary said. “When there is a need for service, people in this valley respond.”

A disabled woman in Canyon Country, who has used the food pantry, called the city and said Church of Hope was all but out of food, Ortiz said. City staff called leaders of both churches, who responded quickly with the much-needed money, she said.

The pantry has been running for 18 years, McLeary said. Demand for food has been so great recently that the pantry began running out of food, he said.

After being called by city staff, Luis Espino, Family Pastor at Copper Hill Community Church sent a mass e-mail to members of his congregation asking for donations. The church was able to raise the money within a few hours, he said.

“Grace Baptist and Copper Hill Community Church have always been active in the community,” Ortiz said. “It’s a blessing to have these types of people in the valley.”

SCV Food Pantry
The day before Thanksgiving, families were lining up in front of the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry in Newhall about an hour before it opened at 9 a.m.

People have been lining up in front of the pantry regularly over the last year, said the food pantry’s executive director, Belinda Crawford.

“We never used to have a line waiting for the pantry to open,” Belinda said. “Now we’ll have people waiting in line outside at 8:30 in the morning.”

The number of people the pantry has helped in the last two years has nearly doubled, Crawford said.

In 2008, the food pantry gave food to about 5,500 different people. The pantry has already helped 7,000 people through September 2009 — about 30 percent more than in 2008, she said.

In 2007, the pantry helped about 3,000 people, Crawford said.

The pantry was packed Wednesday afternoon with people getting all types of goods before the holidays — bars of soap, toothpaste, boxed and canned food. In the back of the pantry, at least 25 volunteers were busy unloading and sorting food donations.

The food pantry is not open today.

Jessica Baker, who has volunteered at the pantry for about two years, said she started helping after her family struggled financially during her parents’ divorce.

“It’s a bit embarrassing for people to come to the food pantry,” Baker said. “It’s not easy for people to admit they need help. I can sympathize with them a bit.”

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