Outreach to Our ‘Hungry, Homeless, and Lonely’

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Within Meera Beser’s email signature is a hefty list revealing the community advocacy to which this Tahoe Vista resident is dedicated. She founded one of the efforts listed, the Tahoe Community Thanksgiving Celebration, about 15 years ago and an estimated 300 to 600 people annually attend this free festivity held at the event center in Kings Beach. Beser’s unofficial slogan for the gathering is that it’s “Outreach to the hungry, homeless, and lonely, cleverly disguised as a community party, because no one wants to admit to being hungry, homeless, and lonely.”

The holidays are a time of togetherness and good tidings, but it’s not always that way for everyone. In this community, that is not forgotten and myriad endeavors aim to support the less fortunate among us, ensuring everyone can experience the joy of this special time of year. Here are ways to help those in need and uplift all in the community.

 

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CLEVERLY DISGUISED OUTREACH: A volunteer preps the pies at the Tahoe Community Thanksgiving Celebration. Hundreds join this annual free event in Kings Beach. Photo by Michelle Okashima

All-Welcome Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day

Beser admits this free open-to-all dinner is hard work, but she says it’s worth it.

“It’s really very cool, people have made it their tradition,” she said. “I have a whole selection of tourists that have become part of the program; they have Thanksgiving timeshares, and they’ve made it part of their holidays.”

Food comes through many community donations, such as turkey from the Hyatt and many individual donors, Tahoe House pies, and ribs from Jason’s Beachside Grille. A dining crew puts it all together in the event center’s “wonderful kitchen.”

One of the biggest complaints over the years is that people didn’t have the beloved requisite leftovers, but event organizers have made it so people can have their dinner and leftovers too.

People often donate their time for live entertainment and kids activities, Beser said. Money and food donations are welcome, and the organizers always need help cleaning up.

Info: 1:30 to 6 p.m. at the North Tahoe Event Center, 8318 N Lake Blvd., Kings Beach, Meera Beser, (775) 230-1066

~ MP

Homeless Care Package

Year-round

Truckee’s homeless population’s needs are as unique as each individual. Danielle Segal, program manager at North Tahoe-Truckee Homeless Services (NTTHS), encourages those who would like to help to donate to the organization. This way, donations don’t go to waste, and those in need have access to items that they don’t already have. Monetary donations are always accepted, and volunteer opportunities are available after applying.

Items they need throughout winter include large backpacks, 0- to 30-degree adult sleeping bags, one-person tents (three to four season), new underwear, new long underwear, gently used pants (size 32 to 36), gently used sweatshirts and fleece, winter boots (size 8 to 12), winter coats (size medium to 2XL), individually-wrapped snacks, and new hygiene products (deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, razors, feminine products). This list changes periodically, so be sure to check their website at ntthomelessservices.com/get-involved. They also have an Amazon Wish List link where you can purchase specific items they need.

NTTHS operates a Day Respite Center for community health checks, showers, warm meals, laundry, and availability of basic necessities. The Emergency Warming Center is currently not scheduled to open this season, however, conversations are currently happening between local county and town agencies to find a solution.

Info: Contact their program coordinator at NTTHS@amihousing.org or (530) 386-7954

~ TC

Community Cares

Now through mid-December

Truckee Community Cares is an all-volunteer nonprofit that coordinates various drives during the holidays. Formerly known as Truckee Community Christmas, it identifies those in need, raises essential funds, and collaborates closely with other groups such as Soroptimist International of Truckee Donner, area faith organizations, and numerous local service clubs and businesses.

The food drive pivoted four years ago to fundraise for grocery gift cards versus collecting food items, allowing recipients the flexibility to buy what they choose for their family holiday meals. Toy and coat donation bins can be found around Truckee and much-needed donations include gently worn adult and children’s’ jackets, plus new/unboxed toys and teen gifts. (The toy drive collaborates with Toys for Tots, see below.)

“Our nonprofit has been at the forefront of this movement for the past 30 years, and we owe the program’s continued existence to the unwavering support and generosity of the Truckee community. It is truly a grassroots campaign, powered by the collective efforts of the community,” said Will Mendoza, TCC board president, in a press release.

Info: Donate or find the list of drop-off locations at truckeecommunitycares.com.

~ Truckee Community Cares press release

EVERY KID DESERVES CHRISTMAS: Toys for Tots collects unwrapped, brand-new toys for ages 0 to 18 years old. In high need are gifts for teens. Photo by Michelle Okashima

Toys for Tots

Through Dec. 15

Also in the aforementioned Beser’s impressive advocacy list? Toys for Tots. She took over local efforts six years ago and her turf includes Truckee and halfway around Lake Tahoe.

The national Toys for Tots organization was started by the wife of a Marine Corps Reserve major because she felt “every kid deserves Christmas,” Beser explained, and it celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. A large nonprofit organization, campaigns are conducted in over 800 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

“We pride ourselves on being a top-rated charity,” Beser said. “Ninety-seven percent of the money donated goes back out in toys, and only 3% is used for administration.”

Unwrapped brand-new toys for ages 0 to 18 years old can be placed in donation boxes located all over the region, including 75 in Truckee, 55 in Tahoe City, and 20 in Kings Beach. Beser said community members hold their own drives, such as at real estate office parties and those who elect to forego white elephant parties and instead opt for a toy drive.

The hardest ones to receive toys for are the teenagers, Beser said. Ideas include science projects, books, arts/crafts supplies, Bluetooth speakers, hair care supplies, and remote-control vehicles.

Volunteers pick up donations by mid-December, sort them, and pack by families and age of child. A key tenet, Beser said, is that the “toys that we get, stay in our community.”

For families interested in requesting toys for their children, the application is quick and available at many schools and agencies in the area (find a list at the website below). Only parents or guardians of children should apply.

Info: Meera Beser, (775) 230-1066, tahoe-truckee.toysfortots.org

~ MP

CARING COAT DRIVE: The all-volunteer organization Truckee Community Cares helps coordinate various drives during the holidays, including one for winter coats. Courtesy photo

The Community House

Year-round

Sierra Community House is a nonprofit born of four regional social service organizations four years ago. Its main pillars center around hunger relief, crisis intervention and family support, community engagement and prevention, and mediation and legal assistance. Below are five ways to support Sierra Community House’s mission all year long, but especially during the busy holiday season.

1. Host a virtual food drive or donate gift cards to local grocery stores.

2. Provide gift cards for the Calm App, a guided meditation app (send to achapman@sierracommunityhouse.org).

3. Donate individual furniture or home decor items for the Incline Village counseling room.

4. Volunteer: sierracommunityhouse.org/ways-to-give/volunteer.

5. Become a monthly donor: tinyurl.com/yc6mdjma.

Info: Allison Edwards, aedwards@sierracommunityhouse.org

~ AH

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