People Helping People (PHP) is maintaining an "open door" policy during the COVID-19 crisis by keeping all direct service staff, including counselors, working remotely to answer calls and deliver vital services to those in need.
According to Chief Executive Officer Dean Palius, while PHP has shifted from in-office and on-school campus assistance to tele-help in order to protect the health and safety of staff, volunteers and community members, they continue to work hard to help residents during the crisis.
“We not only continue to provide emergency and essential basic needs services, but we have expanded that assistance," said Palius. "We are here to serve our community during this crisis that is especially devastating to our restaurant, hotel, and retail businesses and their employees.”
PHP also has added a weekly emergency food distribution in response to the increased need, while maintaining its bi-weekly Thursday programs at Mission Santa Inés in Solvang and Creekside Apartments in Los Alamos.
Additionally, every Tuesday since late March at the Mission Santa Inés parking lot from 1-3 p.m., PHP in partnership with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, has provided healthy groceries and fresh produce to those in need at no cost. Everyone is welcome and no documentation or preregistration is required.
PHP’s Chief Program Officer Mayra Ramos said that the first Tuesday distributions drew 250 families each and that the number is expected to grow as the pandemic continues.
“Mission Santa Inés is a wonderful venue for the distribution," said Ramos. "We pre-bagged approximately 350 bags of food and distributed all of them. Fifty went to Los Alamos and 20 were delivered to local seniors. Everyone did a good job of maintaining physical distance and implementing safety measures.”
Due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the center has been feeding an additional 70 seniors each day, which totals 160 — and that number continues to grow.
Palius said that donors like The Book Loft in Solvang who have provided new children’s books to families to help occupy children and fuel their minds, and Ben Olmedo, a local physician’s assistant who created short videos in Spanish and English for PHP to share with their clients about COVID-19, come at a critical time when revenue from PHP's Buellton thrift store and postponed key events has been substantially reduced.
“More than ever we need the help of local donors to support our friends and neighbors that are facing financial crises through no fault of their own," he said. "Donations of any amount make a difference."
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is seeking Spanish-English bilingual volunteers at its call centers to assist Spanish-speaking callers with questions about food options and deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those in need of services can contact PHP: those with school aged-children that live in Solvang or Santa Ynez should call Diana Ponce at 805-705-9143; those living in Buellton or Los Alamos can call Liliana Uribe at 805-757-7167; and those without school-aged children or who are a senior citizen, may contact Victor Gonzalez at 805-588-2572. For counseling inquiries, contact Rena Smith at 805-705-9142.
To donate, contact Kristina at email@example.com (donations) or Mayra (services) at firstname.lastname@example.org, donate online at www.syvphp.org/donate/ or by mail at PO Box 1478, Solvang, CA 93464. More information is available at www.syvphp.org
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Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News.
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