ENCINITAS — The Season of Hope is about to begin for a nonprofit organization that turns 40 this year in Encinitas.
The Community Resource Center was established in 1979 and works to end hunger, homelessness and domestic violence in North County San Diego.
The organization’s Season of Hope campaign runs from early November through the end of December. It encompasses a number of campaigns, Including Giving Tuesday, which takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving; Holiday Baskets, a three-day distribution at the Del Mar Fairgrounds that provides food, coats, blankets, infant items and gifts for over 6,000 people in need, including 3,000 kids and 300 seniors; and their Winter Appeal, a month-long, end of the year appeal campaign that brings in funds that carries the CRC through the majority of the following year.
“During the holidays, we still have families and seniors and survivors of domestic violence that are coming here for food and services and counseling,” said Lauren Montague, development and marketing manager for the CRC. “And, so, Season of Hope is about making sure that we’re taking care of our neighbors in need.”
Montague said the Holiday Basket Program started in 1983 and at that time they were actual baskets that were given to families, filled with goods and food.
Today, Holiday Baskets have grown to where families get to fill a shopping cart for their family for the holidays, which includes big ticket items like bikes. Families also get pre-packaged food.
“When you see a child in the bike section getting an opportunity to pick their bike, a bike that’s going to take them to school or help them get to a part time job, or an adult who’s getting a bike that’s going to mean transportation to a job, the look on their face, there really aren’t words that adequately describe it, but it’s an amazing thing to see,” said Debbie Murray, chief development officer of the CRC.
Participants have to register for the Holiday Baskets Program and are individuals and families who live, work or go to school in the cities of San Marcos, Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach or Del Mar; and have an annual household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income ($72,750 for a family of four).
Registration begins in September and there are 1,500 allotted household slots. All have been filled for this year’s program, taking place from Dec. 13 to Dec. 15.
The CRC hosts an annual Jingle and Mingle Fundraising party that is open to the public. Tickets are $20 and includes food, drink and music. The event this year is on Dec. 10 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Murray said the event is held in conjunction with the set up for Holiday Baskets, so that attendees can get a behind the scenes tour of that event, which helps to illustrate the work of not just the CRC staff but the thousands of volunteers that work on the program all year long.
“We have organizations and individuals that are doing donation drives all year long to collect all of the bikes, the toys and the food and blankets, so that we have enough to give out to these households,” Murray said. “We absolutely could not do this without such a supportive community and our wonderful sponsors.”
Montague added that volunteers go above and beyond, sometimes even washing the jackets that will be donated in their own washer and dryer.
Murray said the Season of Hope is a culmination of everything that the CRC does all year long with its many programs and ends with “this one joyous event at the end of the year.”
Murray said the role of the CRC is an important one for families struggling to make ends meet, since spending money on holiday decorations, food and gifts can put a strain on their finances and make it difficult for them to be able to cover the cost of transportation to work, pay a medical bill or pay their rent.
“For a lot of families, especially those that have younger children, you want to be able to provide a holiday experience for them, and that can be difficult if you are a family where money is tight,” Murray said. “So to be able to alleviate that stress and say, ‘We’re going to provide you the 50-pound box of food, the gifts for the kids,’ to be able to do that is important because then they can have that nice holiday experience that everybody wants without putting the strain on the rest of their budget.”
To donate items or volunteer visit their website at crcncc.org.
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.