December 28, 1990
By Yolanda Reynolds
Through this toilsome world, alas!
Once and only once I pass;
If a kindness I may show,
If a good deed I, may do
To a suffering fellow man,
Let me do it while I can.
No delay, for it is plain
I shall not pass this way again.
In a time for the gathering of friends and family to celebrate the winter holidays and to welcome the new year, there are many who have to worry about a warm meal or how to pay for a special holiday meal for their family.
These past weeks. the Hispanic Development Corporation organized and distributed over $10,000.00 in Gift Certificates to needy Hispanicfamilies in the South Bay.
Leonard Ramirez, Executive Director of the Hispanic Development Corporation (HDC), says that with $5,000.00 available from the San Jose Mayor’s Earthquake Fund and another $5.000.00 from Citibank; HDC developed the Food Gift Certificate Project to “assist low-income, unemployed and needy Hispanic families during the wintertime and, in particular, during the Christmas holidays.”
Ramirez is particularly pleased with the success of the program for a number of reasons. The ﬁrst is that the project does not require a new system to disburse the Gift Certificates. In fact, every penny donated goes directly to the recipients. HDC does not take a percentage of the donation for the programs operation, nor are any of the HDC staff paid.
An unexpected increase of funds Ramirez says, came from the management at Lucky’s Grocery who aid that their company would itself rebate 6% of total Gift Certiﬁcate purchases there by enabling HDC to fund another $600.00 or 15 certiﬁcates for a total of 265.
Ramirez says that the HDC plan was very effective and easily managed because he and his group worked through already established community groups that have very close contacts with and knowledge of the community.
125 Certificates were distributed to needy families in Watsonville via the Watsonville Migrant Education program, using dollars from the Mayor’s Earthquake Fund. In the San Jose area, HDC contacted; “Mujeres 2000”, a group of San Jose State single Hispanic mothers attending college, the Alum Rock Migrant Education Program, the Mt. Pleasant Elementary School District. “Madres en Accion,” active in the Oak Grove Elementary School District, and other women’s groups such as; the Cooperative Agency for Resources and Education, CARE, at De Anza College, another La Familia Project at the “Y” and Our Lady 0f The Sea Parish in Alviso.
Another important benefit of the gift certiﬁcate program is that the recipient families can buy what they need and in the quantities that they need. For some, it is salt and flour, for others eggs, potatoes or vegetables would allow them not one, but numerous, hearty meals.
Though to some of us $40.00 seems a small amount; even that amount, when in need, can make a big difference. Erma Ramirez who helped distribute the Certificates to needy families at Mount Pleasant Elementary could not contain the tears of sadness and joy at hearing one former mother who aid that the Gift Certiﬁcate would allow her to keep a foster child and his little friend from the shelter together. She had just returned home after picking up a new former child and had to leave his friend in tears. When she received word that HDC had a Gift Certiﬁcate for her, she hurried over to the Mt. Pleasant Elementary School to pick up the certiﬁcate and then back to the children’s shelter for the foster child’s little friend. For her the certificate was veriﬁcation that, “God would provide” and help her provide care for her foster children. Foster parents receive between $345 – $484 in state assistance per child per month.
Lydia San Filipo who chairs the Women’s Council for HDC was very pleased with the success of the Gift Certiﬁcate program. HDC was able to accomplish a broad distribution throughout the valley in a very short period of time to the great benefit of the recipients. San Filipo was particularly pleased because HDC was able to assist a number of women’s groups in their work of helping needy women.
HDC annually sponsors the very well attended “Portraits of Success.” In addition to honoring outstanding individuals in the community, this function as HDC’s major fund raiser.
En these days of economic uncertainty and decline the qualities of kindness, generosity and sensitivity to the plight of others are a mark of a civilized society.
The homeless shelters are full. Unfortunately, homelessness happens even to people who have work but whose salaries are too low to pay high rents. For many it is a problem to acquire the needed funds to pay the required deposit and the first and last month rent.
According to shelter personnel, many of those who are the working homeless live in their autos during the warmer months and only seek shelter when it becomes very cold. Many of those who have a car need it to be able to get to their work.
Homelessness, like any other misfortune, strikes the young and the old. One man, retired has been homeless when apartment rent far exceeded the $175.00 monthly Social Security check he receives. For years, he worked at minimum salary at a local company. Living, as he has to now, in these years of his retirement, is especially difficult for him because of his age – he is over 70. He spends the day at a senior center in downtown San Jose and his evenings at a shelter.
The temporary shelters require that their guests leave by 6:00 a.m., if not a little earlier. The Army Reserve needs the armory vacated early so that they can conduct their business during the day. Changing the armory into a residence by night is a major undertaking. The shelter staff, though employed for a short period of time – November through March, carry out their tasks with efficiency.
Every day drivers pick up the used blankets and towels from the shelter so that they can be washed. The laundry is done at the Elmwood facility. Each afternoon another driver picks up clean laundry at Elmwood and food supplies at the Consortium’s warehouse for distribution. During the cold season, when the armories are open, the consortium has to have in place an efficient system for distributing supplies to the three large temporary armory shelters that usually are open from late November until early March.
According to the Consortium staff, blankets are always needed. They wear out quickly. At Gilroy, the cook says that she needs condiments; salt, onions, chile, garlic, pepper, etc. Spices can make most foods tasty.
The shelters are asking for donations of warmer clothing; long underwear, socks, knit caps and gloves. The current cold weather is expected to continue for a while longer though gradually becoming a few degrees warmer.
The Emergency Housing Consortium, a non-profit organization providing shelter services for homeless families and individuals, handles a very large and demanding operation in Santa Clara County. In addition to providing temporary shelter, it provides extended shelter to families, food banks, bathing facilities, medical, social services, bilingual services, veterans assistance, self-help support (Alcoholics
Anonymous. Narcotics Anonymous) and Job Training. There are many groups involved in the Consortium but, even so, they all need public support as the need for their services continues to grow. The Consortium’s motto is, “help the homeless help themselves.”
Donations of clothing and food for the homeless are accepted at 7th and Commercial in San Jose. Telephone (408) 286-9170.