Some of the Santa Clarita Valley’s foster youth and families in need no longer have to worry about their Thanksgiving meals this year, following a drive-thru meal distribution held at the Department of Children and Family Services’ Santa Clarita office Tuesday.
Held in partnership with LoveSCV, a local organization that works to connect the needs of the community to its available resources, DCFS conducted a food drive in the SCV, receiving either food or monetary donations to create meal packs.
While many families attended the drive-thru pickup event, DCFS social workers also delivered a number of meal packs to families who could not attend.
Michelle Penez and Gabriela Breceda, children’s services administrators with DCFS Santa Clarita, highlighted the importance of such a donation to families for the holidays, which is often a difficult financial time for them.
“Especially right now during COVID, we have a lot of families that lost their jobs or are unemployed and they need food for Thanksgiving,” Breceda said.
A total of 300 families involved in the DCFS system locally, along with some 18- to 21-year-old youth who live independently, were given meal packs, complete with stuffing, cornbread, rice, beans, vegetables, mashed potatoes and brownie mix among other items, along with a $25 gift card to purchase turkeys.
“Really it’s about community connection,” added Anthony Cervantes, a resource family support liaison for DCFS. “We can’t do this by ourselves. It’s about relying on the villages that have always been here.”
DCFS has been working with the SCV community to reconnect with community organizations, whether nonprofit, church or other, to reestablish those assets, and events such as this one showcase those efforts.
“It promotes hope,” Cervantes said. “So, it’s just an honor and a privilege to be here… (And), it’s phenomenal to be able to promote what we can do together as one.”
Among the volunteers were 13-year-old Dazerine Perez and her mother Melissa Martinez, who began volunteering after Perez had such a good time while doing her high school community service hours.
“I like that I’m helping others, to be honest, in a way that’s not unrealistic. I’m actually hands-on doing it,” Perez said. “That was what really made me happy.”
“It’s so remarkable to realize I could never do any of this on my own and step back and watch what happens when we all collaborate together,” added Susan Christopher, executive director of LoveSCV. “To know that when we work together, things like making sure families know they’re not alone, this community is behind them, and maybe for just a minute, it’ll be a little bit easier for their family, that feels good.”
This was the first year of what organizers hope will become an annual occurrence, and they are already starting work on more holiday donation drives ahead of Christmas.
DCFS Santa Clarita and LoveSCV will once again be collecting donations for their holiday donation drive to help provide gifts to foster youth and families this holiday season Dec. 1-17. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/DCFSholiday or tinyurl.com/DCFSwishlist.
For more ways to help DCFS Santa Clarita, contact Michelle Penez at [email protected] or 661-702-6255.