A source of comfort and care during pandemic: Kiwanis visits Salvation Army
Kiwanis Club of Tehachapi
December 5, 2020
Salvation Army Service Center Coordinator Sandy Chavez underscored the organization's local impact when she told members of the Kiwanis Club of Tehachapi that she had misspoken earlier that day at the Dec. 2 Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council meeting.
"It wasn't 350 Thanksgiving baskets that we provided," Chavez said. "We served 1,000 families with Thanksgiving baskets."
Forty to 50 volunteers organized and distributed the Thanksgiving baskets on November 17 at the Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard Church.
"It's a huge production," Chavez said. "We took 250 banana boxes of food to the Mountain Vineyard and loaded on tables that we set up outside."
Volunteers loaded turkeys, fruit, vegetables and bread donated by Albertsons, Save Mart, Walmart and USDA Commodities into the individual baskets, and clients drove by to pick up their Thanksgiving meals.
The COVID pandemic has increased the need for Salvation Army Services, which includes food distribution every day except Wednesday and Sunday. Prior to the pandemic, she said, 35 to 40 clients came to the Center to pick up food. That number is now 50 to 80 clients every distribution day, she said.
The busy Service Center has maintained its services during the pandemic and has adapted to greater need because of its effect on people's normal lives.
"Our demographics have changed," Chavez said.
In addition to the regular clientele, people who have been laid off their jobs and those who are trying to work through the difficulties of getting unemployment benefits are finding they need help, she said.
"People might get stuck. We're here to supplement that."
The familiar Salvation Army kettle bell ringing during the holidays is going well, according to Kettle Coordinator Kyle Yates.
"We started a week early this year, the week prior to Thanksgiving," he said. The collection will continue until the day before Christmas. Yates personally collects the red buckets and brings them to the Center. The money counting is orderly and strict, with every penny accounted for and logged by several persons. All the money collected in the local buckets stays in the Tehachapi community.
Bell ringer volunteers are still needed, Yates said. People who wish to ring bells for the Salvation Army in front of Albertsons, Save Mart and Walmart can access the website volunteer.usawest.org and sign on for a time slot.
With the help of Tehachapi churches and church organizations, the Salvation Army Angel Tree program provides toys and other gifts to 400 children.
"It's the only time we ask for proof of income and proof of a child," Chavez said. "We made sure that people who need it will get it."
Parents fill out a tag that indicates the child's age, size and wishes. Donors fulfill the wishes.
The generosity of Tehachapi donors and churches is apparent in the response to the Angel Tree program.
"People are biting at the bit to get out and do something. [As of December 2] I have no more tags. We are still taking applications."
The tagged toys are kept in rooms at a church until distribution days, December 16, 17 and 18. The parents come in and pick up the gifts by appointment.
"It's a steady flow," Chavez said.
She said she gets calls from California City and Mojave to expand the Angel Tree program, as the Salvation Army has no community Centers in East Kern.
Next year they may be able to organize an expanded Angel Tree program, she said, but for now, "It's just for Tehachapi children."
The pandemic has temporarily shuttered the after-school program, where middle and high school students are welcome at the Center to do homework, socialize and hang out in safety until it's time to go home. The program will resume as soon as the schools open.