Publication Date: Friday, November 28, 2003
CSA offers a hand year-round
CSA offers a hand year-round
(November 28, 2003)
Busy agency provides food, shelter and toys to families in need
By Julie O'Shea
Each year, around this time, the Community Services Agency turns its Stierlin Road offices into a toy closet. The upstairs rooms at the nonprofit fill with bikes, games and other fun gadgets that low-income families living in Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills can choose between free of charge.
For some parents, CSA is the only toy shop they'll visit this holiday season. Knowing this makes the event a poignant experience for many of the organization's staff members, who say they got into this line of work for moments like this.
"It's a very hard job, but we do it because we like helping those families," said Elba Landaverde, who oversees the case management program. "They can come here for anything. We take low-income families with no money, no food.
"The holidays are always hard times," Landaverde added. "These are people that can't afford a $5 toy sometimes."
(CSA is one of six Mountain View nonprofit agencies being supported this year by the Voice Holiday Fund drive.)
CSA's food and nutrition center also fills up with holiday goodies at this time of year, giving folks who visit the facility on a weekly basis a chance to have a new treat for their grocery sack.
Last holiday season, CSA assisted 474 families, making sure 1,086 children had a gift to unwrap. The agency also gave away 1,615 bags of food.
"People tend to forget what teenagers like -- which are gift certificates," said Maureen Wadiak, CSA's associate director for the last six years. "A lot of times they get forgotten."
Wadiak said the organization received an influx of clients this year and anticipates the need for holiday help will be even greater than last year.
The Toy Closet opens Dec. 13 through Dec. 17. Donated toys have already started arriving, and the walls leading into the conference room are papered with giftwrap and other cut-out decorations.
Wadiak said CSA gave away 92 bikes and helmets last year and 392 shoe vouchers were handed out during the holiday months. The nonprofit, Wadiak added, likes to make sure each child gets a new pair of pajamas which is what tends to run out first.
But Wadiak stresses that CSA receives donations year round, noting that the organization gave out a total of 927 shoe vouchers in 2002. The food center also accepts donations year-round.
"Hunger knows no season," Wadiak said.
A fixture in the community for more than 40 years, CSA, a multi-service agency with more than 500 volunteers and 27 staffers, provides emergency aid and, in some cases, in-home care to low-income families, individuals, the homeless and seniors. CSA, in partnership with various community churches, has been running the Alpha Omega Shelter Program for the last 14 years. Participating churches open their parish halls to the homeless, and community members take turns bringing them hot meals.
CSA also organizes the nutrition program at the Mountain View Senior Center, which provides elder residents with an inexpensive hot meal and gives them a venue to network with friends and hold parties. Volunteer caseworkers and nursing interns from San Francisco State University also visit home-bound seniors to make sure they are safe and healthy.
The agency saw a 28 percent increase in first-time clients coming in for emergency care since July, Wadiak said.
"What we are seeing now is a sustained pattern of increased need," Wadiak said, adding that many of those seeking aid today are laid-off engineers and high-tech workers.
With an operating budget of $1.8 million -- the majority of which comes from private individual donations -- CSA has some money set aside for helping residents pay their rent.
"The goal is to prevent an eviction," Wadiak said. "It's a one-time only assistance."
Community Services Agency is located at 204 Stierlin Road. It provides needed services for low-income residents, the homeless and seniors.
E-mail Julie O'Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org