Thursday, November 17, 2011
Ag Against Hunger
Year Founded: 1990
Staff: 5 paid, 750 volunteers
The Big Idea: It’s farmers and volunteers, working together to feed Monterey County – and beyond. Ag Against Hunger collects and distributes surplus produce to area food banks as well as those throughout California and other western states. It needs community support for its gleaning programs, which bring volunteers into the field to pick perfectly good, edible produce left behind after a commercial harvest. This means less field waste for the growers and more fresh produce for food banks to distribute. The food is free, directly from the fields to hungry families in our community, but the program needs money for gas, trucks, refrigeration and storage equipment. Last year, volunteers collected 144,000 pounds of produce.
Lettuce Feed the Hungry: “We collect food in many ways, and gleaning is a way for us to get food out of the fields and into the homes of hungry families in Monterey County.”
Big Sur Health Center
Year Founded: 1979
Staff: 6 paid, 40 volunteers
The Big Idea: Big Sur residents like their rugged isolationism – until they need emergency medical care and the nearest hospital is about 30 miles away or, even worse, the road is washed out or a natural disaster has cut off Big Sur from the rest of the county. Big Sur Health Center is a nonprofit healthcare facility that provides preventative and urgent care, minor surgical procedures and basic laboratory and pharmaceutical services to the community, regardless of ability to pay. In 2012, it will build a dental program. Because of the community’s rural nature and patient demographics, many – especially children – go without dental care. Dental disease can lead to chronic underlying health problems and low-grade infections, as well as poor performance and behavioral issues in school-age children. The Big Sur Oral Health program will bring the dentist to residents, and increase community awareness about the importance of preventative oral health care. The nonprofit has a dentist on board; now it needs money for portable dental equipment and supplies.
Fight, Not Flight: “We provided local medical care to over 1,300 firefighters during the disastrous fires of 2008. We were on-call and available 24/7 during the 2011 road closure.”
Carmel Valley Rotary Club Foundation
Year Founded: 2009
Staff: 50 volunteers
The Big Idea: State cuts to dental services for the poor has left a large population without care – and teeth. An estimated 9,000 poor and elderly people need dentures in Monterey County, and there’s no program that serves these vulnerable members of our community. The Rotary Club wants to bridge the gap, so to speak, and create a dental network for the elderly, uninsured, poor and homebound needing dentures. Nutrition, health care costs, self-esteem and quality of life all suffer if you don’t have teeth. This program will establish a network of volunteer Rotary dentists to offer service to make low-cost dentures available at the Rotocare Clinic and other sites in south county, Salinas, the Peninsula and North County.
Importance of Pearly Whites: “Before, I only had three upper teeth, I looked hideous. I had no self-esteem. Getting dentures changed my life. Now, I can look people in the eye, and I can eat a proper diet.”
Compassionate Care Alliance
Year Founded: 2002
Staff: 2 paid, 33 volunteers
The Big Idea: More than 50 percent of personal bankruptcies are due to medical costs. Compassionate Care Alliance helps remove unintended consequences – like bankruptcy – by educating about healthcare decisions and end-of-life issues. In 2009, the nonprofit surveyed four hospitals in Monterey County on their advance directive usage. An advance directive is a document in which patients specify what actions should be taken for their health in the event that they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity. It also appoints a person to make such decisions on the patient’s behalf. While national studies cite 35 to 50 percent usage, Monterey County’s usage was 7 percent. In 2012, the nonprofit will encourage people to use these forms. The Advance Care Planning Project will provide volunteer community navigators in physician offices and at community venues to help with outreach, and to educate patients about advanced-care planning and how to execute the documents.
Family Planning: “I attended an Advance Care Planning workshop and realized decisions I made were not the best for myself or family members; I revised the decisions.”
Food Bank for Monterey County
Year Founded: 1990
Staff: 18 paid, 500 volunteers
The Big Idea: A fifth of Monterey County’s residents – that’s about 88,700 people – receive food annually from the Food Bank. And 90 percent of these aren’t enrolled in CalFresh, aka food stamps. Many are eligible, but they don’t apply out of fear, pride, misinformation or they can’t get to the county offices to fill out the forms. In 2012, the Food Bank will launch a food stamps outreach program, with outreach workers who build trust and explain that this is a nutrition program, not a welfare program. This provides nutritious meals for hungry families and brings revenue into the county. It comes at a time of rising need and reduced federal funding. The feds are proposing a 50 percent drop in funding, which would reduce the Food Bank to approximately 800,000 pounds. At last count, it distributed 2,610,238 pounds of food to 78,630 households in 2009-1010, compared to 1,984,773 pounds to 69,278 households the previous year.
Food on the Table: “Jennie, a single mother of two who called us when her janitorial business failed, states, ‘I wouldn’t have fed my kids without the Food Bank.’”
Franciscan Workers of Junipero Serra
Year Founded: 1982
Staff: 26 paid, hundreds of volunteers
The Big Idea: Leave it to the Franciscan Workers – the good folks who run Dorothy’s Place in Salinas – to come up with a new project that draws homeless women out of the shadows and into the larger community, giving them a voice and an outlet to tell about their lives. Sights Unseen, a Photovoice Project, is a community-based participatory photography program that gives homeless women (shelter guests) cameras to document the everyday people, places and things that constitute their social and economic realities. Beginning with recruitment, safety procedures and basic photographic training, the Franciscan Workers will work with the women to select a weekly topic (such as food, love, drugs, health, homelessness and womanhood), capture it on camera and create dialogue about the issues revealed by the photos. The program will culminate in a public exhibition of the photos accompanied by captions and narratives as to bring these oft-forgotten realities to the eyes of the general public.
Out of the Dark: “Through the exhibition to the broader community, including present and future influential leaders, we hope to build a bridge through which marginalized and mainstream society may share work, love, and awareness with one another.”
Gateway Center of Monterey County
Year Founded: 1979
Staff: 99 paid, 50 volunteers
The Big Idea: Many of Gateway Center’s residents – developmentally disabled adults – take medications with side effects including weight gain that lead to obesity, hypertension, diabetes and other medical conditions. Plus, as they age, they tend to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s earlier than the norm. The nonprofit’s new Integrated Health and Wellness Program needs funds to provide essential services to residents – things like health education, nutrition and physical fitness that they can adopt in their daily lives – to help them be healthier. Gateway Center provides its clients with help in basic living: personal hygiene, feeding and clothing oneself and social interaction. Its new program will be one more tool to help residents lead fuller lives.
Don’t Throw It Away: “Readers can help by providing desks, lamps, and bedding and furnishings for the rooms of adults with developmental disabilities. Readers can check our wish list on our website.”
Hope Center Food Pantry for Monterey County
Year Founded: 2010
Staff: 25 volunteers
The Big Idea: With all the abundance in Monterey County, it does seem that no one should go hungry, not even puppies and kittens. The Hope Center is a food pantry that feeds Fido, too. In its first year, the nonprofit distributed groceries, fresh produce, toiletries, baby food and supplies (and pet food and supplies) for 2,012 Monterey County residents and 520 pets. Local student volunteers distribute groceries on the first and third Thursdays of every month. But it relies 100 percent on donations and grants, so in order to keep feeding all members of hungry families – including four-legged ones – it needs community dollars.
Basic Needs: “Being a single mother with a baby and having my hours cut at the hospital where I work put me in a terrible position. Thanks to the Hope Center, I was able to get the items and food my baby and I needed.”
Year Founded: 2004
Staff: 1 paid, 3 volunteers
The Big Idea: The loss of state funding for physical education makes it difficult – if not impossible – for most schools to comply with the law mandating kids participate in 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days at the elementary school level and at least 400 minutes at the secondary level. Just Run, a youth fitness program of the Big Sur International Marathon that’s free to schools, is a solution. Plus, it’s a fix to the increasing number of overweight and obese kids in Monterey County. Studies have shown increased fitness levels correspond to higher academic test scores – exercise is good for both the body and brain. Last year, 5,000 local children participated in the program, which encourages physical activity, good citizenship, healthy eating and pride in students’ accomplishments. In 2012, it wants to expand in numbers of children, leaders and sites to every school in Monterey County. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nancy Kotowski, has endorsed it and recommends countywide implementation.
Run Free: “The reaction to the program has been unbelievable. Students of all ages are experiencing the benefits of physical activity while having fun, and a habit of exercising takes hold.”
Meals on Wheels of the Salinas Valley
Year Founded: 1972
Staff: 6 paid, 120 volunteers
The Big Idea: If it weren’t for Meals on Wheels, some 200 frail and disabled adults just might go hungry everyday. For almost 40 years, the nonprofit has delivered nutritious meals to seniors in Salinas, the unincorporated areas of Monterey County and small Salinas Valley cities. It’s the only agency that delivers meals throughout the entire valley – from Pajaro and Aromas in the north to San Ardo and Bradley in the south – and it’s never had a waiting list for services. In 2012, it wants to keep up the good work, with the community’s support. It ensures every Salinas Valley senior who is having trouble shopping or cooking has enough healthy food to eat each day, improves their well-being and helps people remain in their homes and independent.
Daily Bread: “Meals on Wheels delivers food to the homes of some of the most vulnerable and ‘invisible’ members of the Salinas Valley. We serve people who need long-term help and those who need meals only temporarily.”
Natividad Medical Foundation’s The Onyx Fund for Women
Year Founded: 1988 (NMF)
Staff: 10 paid, 40 volunteers
The Big Idea: Safety net hospitals like Natividad Medical Center make up only 6 percent of California’s hospitals but provide nearly 50 percent of all hospital care to the state’s 8.2 million uninsured – and train half of all new doctors. The Onyx Fund for Women cares for a particularly vulnerable sector of uninsured patients: women who need surgery to correct gynecologic problems like prolapsed uterus, fibroid tumors, bleeding and incontinence. When doctors tell these women they need surgery, many disappear because they don’t have money for the down payment for what’s considered elective surgery. The Onyx Fund helps women and girls pay for life-altering surgery – 25 since 2010 – and with community dollars, it will continue to support the working poor in our county, giving them needed surgery now to prevent years of suffering.
Falling Through the Cracks: “One doctor carries a ‘Worry List’ containing the contact information for each woman, so he can follow up to find out when she may return for surgery.”
American Red Cross Monterey Bay Area Chapter
Year Founded: 1906
Staff: 7 paid, 378 volunteers
The Big Idea: A File of Life – a mini-medical history posted on the outside of a refrigerator and/or carried in a wallet or purse – enables medics to obtain a quick medical history when the patient can’t give the needed information, or may have forgot to mention something important to an emergency responder. The card lists the patient’s emergency medical contacts, insurance policy, health problems, medications, allergies, surgeries, religion, doctors and health care proxy. The Red Cross wants to provide the File of Life to the public at no charge. Community dollars can put these in every household in Monterey and San Benito counties, ensuring emergency responders have access to vital, lifesaving medical information while helping people during emergencies.
Vital Stats and Files: “Any adult child of an ailing parent who has experienced a medical emergency and has had to recall their parent’s medical history to emergency staff can relate to the need for a File of Life.”
Visiting Nurse Association Community Services
Year Founded: 1951
Staff: 29 paid, 15 volunteers
The Big Idea: Blame it on the kids. The flu virus starts with children, and the child can have the flu for five days without ever showing symptoms – but she’s still infecting others. Immunizing children could potentially eradicate most flu viruses and avoid deaths of infants and seniors, who may not have the immune systems to fight them. The VNA says in 2012, flu ends with “U.” Give money to immunize kids. Prevention means that the next time you go to the movies, church or the grocery store, there will be less risk of becoming ill, or contaminating an infant or elderly family member. In addition to health benefits, the plan’s got financial pluses, too. Less absenteeism means secured revenue to the schools and teachers’ needs, and less loss of education for the student.
Shot in the Dark: “Prevention has eradicated polio, smallpox and other deadly diseases that we don’t think of any more.”
Central Coast YMCA
Year Founded: 1989
Staff: 250 paid, 950 volunteers.
The Big Idea: The YMCA wants to build a healthier community by keeping kids moving. Its big idea – reduce childhood obesity through increased physical activity – will help more than 6,000 children grow into active and healthy adults, thus reducing future weight-related health problems like diabetes and heart disease, making Monterey County a stronger, healthier community. Its Keeping Kids Moving: YMCA Obesity Prevention Program gets kids active through sports, swimming, camps and after-school clubs. Rather than watching TV or playing video games, kids at the Y are playing, running, jumping and dancing. Plus, Y leaders help young people learn to enjoy wholesome snacks such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and drink water rather than sweetened beverages. Teach them these lessons early on, and they’ll keep moving into adulthood, too.
No More Couch Potatoes: “The Y is the best thing we’ve done. My shy daughter now gets lots of activity to stay healthy, for a huge boost of confidence.”