Donations from Unified We Serve’s food and clothing drive helps families during Thanksgiving

Reanna Delgadillo

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Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND) is a private facility that provides food, clothing, and other emergency services, to families struggling during the holidays. Photo Credit: Reanna Delgadillo/ Staff Reporter

Unified We Serve’s food and clothing drive collected donations on the steps of the Oviatt Library last week to help families in need around the Thanksgiving holiday.

On Saturday, local families were able to  go to Meet Each Need with Dignity (MEND), a privately funded facility that provides emergency food, clothing, medical, vision, dental care and job placement services to struggling families in Pacoima, to receive packages of food and clothing for their families.

Justin Weiss, CSUN’s Unified We Serve coordinator, said he was happy with how the event turned out.

“I think it went tremendous,” Weiss said. “I think it superceded all the expectations that we had.”

Weiss said the same event last year only raised 5,000 donations when this year they were able to raise that number to 13,000 donations.

“It’s still growing because people are still donating,” Weiss said.

Weiss said the donation numbers have most likely risen from 15,000 to 16,000 because Unified We Serve has continued to receive donations since the event.

“That triples the number from last year,” Weiss said. “Last year was our first year, so to see it triple in our second year, it really inspires me to see what this campus, when it pulls together, what it can do together as one entity for the community.”

Weiss said around the holidays, things are much more costly and families are in greater need.

“It’s tough to put food on the table in general, let alone for the holidays. When it comes to food, clothing and especially toys for their children,” Weiss said.

He said another factor that is causing hardships this year is the state of the economy.

“Families are losing jobs, so even though they had a hard time as it is with their low-paying jobs, now they really have no source of income. So this is why it’s so great that we’re able to pull together as a campus,” Weiss said.

Veronica Soto, director of clothing distributions, said  MEND picked up all the donations Wednesday.

“It was very successful,” Soto said.

She added that MEND is very pleased Unified We Serve wants to continue helping and making the drive an annual event.

“We’re very happy MEND was selected as beneficiary of the event,” Soto said.

Soto said in their clothing department, MEND serves 150 families per day Tuesday through Friday.

“A slow day is about 90. So anywhere between 90 and 150 families per day,” she said.

Soto said it has been about 130 families per day recently and that more food is distributed daily than clothing.

Richard Weinroth, director of Food Distribution at MEND, said the amount of families they serve varies weekly.

“Every week on site we serve about 800 families,” Weinroth said. “But that doesn’t include the offsite outreach that we do through nearly 30 organizations.”

He said MEND helps feed 20,000 to 25,000 people a month.

“The 3,300 pounds of food that you guys got us from that food drive is amazing,” Weinroth said. “It helped so much.”

Weinroth said MEND goes through 10,000 pounds of fresh produce, meats and vegetables a day.

“But a food drive like (CSUN’s) is so rare. It helps so much,” Weinroth said.

Weinroth said MEND serves anybody who meets federal poverty guidelines and have the need.

He added there is an increase in the need for families to come to the food bank during the holidays.

“The need has been increasing even in non-holiday times as well,” Weinroth said. “Thankfully we get food drives like (CSUN’s) during the holidays.”

He said MEND adopts 1,300 families for the holidays to try to give them a happy holiday as well, in case they would not have much to celebrate.

Jesus Desantiago, manager of Food Distribution at MEND, said he really appreciates CSUN’s efforts in the food drive.

“The display was amazing,” Desantiago said. “It makes a really big difference here.”

Desantiago said with the dire situations everywhere, any kind of help is a good thing and makes an impact.

“Right now we have a whole bunch of volunteers sorting out what you guys donated,” Desantiago said.

He said MEND receives the larger loads of food around the holidays, but in general they receive a good amount of food from local stores, fields, and other food banks.