Nov. 6, 2012
Misty Volaski, email@example.com
Whether you’ve lived in Ojai your whole life or just moved here, you’ve probably noticed that the giving spirit is alive and well in the valley. Through dozens of nonprofit organizations, churches and businesses, there’s always someone ready to step up to lend a hand to our fellow residents in need.
Want to lend a hand this season? Here are a few options:
• Help of Ojai
Perhaps the most recognizable charitable organization within the city, HELP of Ojai is the go-to place for locals who are having a tough time.
This year, said executive director Terri Wolfe, HELP has about 200 families in its Adopt-a-Family program, in which HELP collects donated goods to ensure that local families have a happy holiday season.
Although that program is wrapping up, HELP still has an acute need for food donations to fill its food pantry. “The shelves are still really light,” Wolfe said. “The food goes out to low-income families and seniors. This is year-round assistance … and we only have another a month’s worth of food in the pantry.”
Food may be dropped off at the HELP of Ojai West Campus, 370 Baldwin Road, at Vons, Starr Market, or at any of the local banks, which are working together to try to bring in five tons of food through the Five Ton Challenge. Donations may also be dropped at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 409 Topa Topa Drive (call 646-1885 for best times to drop off donations).
Another way to support the work that HELP does is to shop at the 2nd Helpings Thrift Store, 841 E. Ojai Ave. The proceeds from the affordable shop provide HELP with more funding — by far — than any of its other programs.
Volunteers for all of HELP’s programs are also welcome; call 646-5122.
• Ojai Valley Family Shelter
Wolfe, who is also on the OVFS board, also recommended volunteering with Ojai’s rotating homeless shelter. “A lot of people who would typically volunteer in the shelters get busy during this time of year,” she pointed out. So, December often brings a shortage of volunteers to keep things running smoothly.
The shelter will sponsor a Christmas party for the valley’s homeless Dec. 20, and volunteers and food and monetary donations are needed.
Visit www.ovfs.org for more details on what’s needed and how you can volunteer.
• Ojai Valley Lions Club
The Ojai Valley Lions Club has brought its holiday tree farm back to the “old old” Ford dealership lot on West Ojai Avenue, and is open every day though Dec. 22 (Monday through Friday, 2 to 8 p.m., and weekends, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Available are trees of many sizes and types, as well as garlands and wreaths.
“We do the pre-sales through the Ojai schools, and we had about 190 pre-sales this year,” Tami Winbury said. “The great thing about that is 30 percent of the pre-sale purchase went right back to the schools.”
She added that 100 percent of the proceeds from the tree sales go right back into the Ojai Valley through a myriad of channels. There’s the pre-sale proceeds which go to the schools, and regular donations to HELP of Ojai, OVFS, and many others. Funds also help pay for about 100 local children to play AYSO soccer (and other sports) each year. The Lions even work with local optometrists Drs. Robert Graham and Bruce Brockman to help disadvantaged children and the elderly purchase glasses.They also helped build a bridge in the Ojai Meadows Preserve and are working on creating a kid-friendly room in the Ojai Valley Community Hospital. Also, “We have a box for food donations at the lot also,” noted Winbury.
Visit www.ojailions.org for more information.
• Church of the Living Christ’s “A Lot … of Christmas Trees”
Meiners Oaks’s Church of the Living Christ is also hosting a Christmas tree sale at the church, 190 E. El Roblar Dr., from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Proceeds from the tree sales will go to the church’s orphanage in Colombia. Visit www.ojaiclc.org for details.
• Wachter’s Hay & Grain
Once again, Wachter’s is donating a portion of its Christmas tree sales to the Angel Tree organization. The nonprofit group is dedicated to helping give children with incarcerated parents a good Christmas, by purchasing presents for the children on behalf of their parents. Angel Tree estimates there are 1.7 million children with a parent in prison this holiday season, and for more than 25 years the Morehart family, owners of Watcher’s, have earmarked a portion of their profits to go to Angel Tree. Buy an Angel Tree at Wachter’s, 114 S. Montgomery St., during regular hours. Call 646-4581 for more information.
• July’s Nest A Loved Family Tree
Recognizing that not all families may qualify for HELP of Ojai aid — or may be shy about applying — Lisa Lynch, owner of July’s Nest kids’ consignment store in Meiners Oaks, has created A Loved Family Tree. Gathering the names of families in need through word-of-mouth, emails and phone calls, Lynch has set up a tree in her front window where she has hung tags with gift requests for Ojai Valley kids who might not otherwise get Christmas presents this year. Customers can come in the store, pick out a tag bearing a present request (children’s names are not listed), go out and purchase the gift, then bring it back to July’s Nest. Lynch will make sure the presents are delivered to the families before Christmas.
“This is for families who have food, but maybe they don’t have an extra $100 available to go Christmas shopping, or for the family with a dad who lost his job recently … or they have really high medical bills maybe,” she said. “I can’t guarantee that a gift will be purchased, but we’re trying!”
Lynch has also set up a Toys for Tots box at the shop, 555 W. El Roblar Dr., and will accept food donations to HELP of Ojai’s food pantry. Visit www.julysnest.com or call 921-5353 for more information on donating or requesting gifts.
• Ojai Valley Community Church and Doo-a-Lot Rock Scholarship Concert
Nordhoff High School football fans may remember dynamo Cody Doolittle, who passed away two years ago. Cody’s friends have created a scholarship in his honor, and to help fill the scholarship coffers, Hall of Fame musician Dave Mason and the band Dr. Surf are putting on a concert Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Ojai Valley Community Church.
Treat the family to a holiday concert by a legendary rocker and help local high school students achieve their goals at the same time. Visit www.dooalotrock.weebly.com to buy tickets. Consider bringing a few cans of food, which OVCC will make sure get to HELP of Ojai.
• Ventura County Sheriff’s Department’s Share-iff Program
For several years now, Ventura County police officers have banded together to donate toys to disadvantaged children in the communities they serve. Donation boxes are placed at every station around the county, asking department employees and the public to drop in unwrapped presents for children ages 16 and under. Ojai’s Police Station, 402 S. Ventura St., has a box in the front office.
How it works: needy families are identified by officers or are referred to the program. The children’s names, ages and genders are gathered into a database organized by Corina Lozano and Victor Flores at the sheriff’s headquarters, and once all donations have been collected — the cutoff date is Dec. 20 — volunteers sort the toys according to age and gender, wrap the toys, and either deliver them to the families’ homes or set up a “Santa’s Workshop” in the local police station (Ojai will be doing the latter). Toy and food donations are welcome in the boxes, and everything stays in Ventura County.
For details, call Lozano at 388-5179.
Is your organization doing something to help this season? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.