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Serve Reedley

IN THE January 9 ISSUE

FROM THE 2021 Articles,
andHelping Hands,
andJim Mulligan,
andReedley News
SECTIONS

by Jim Mulligan

When Alicia, a single mom of two exuberant boys, found herself in need of some basic items for her new apartment, she didn’t know where to turn. Alicia, because of some family issues, needed to strike out on her own with her boys. She was eventually able to get an apartment, but had exhausted her financial resources doing so. While they had a roof over their heads, they didn’t have much else. It’s at these moments in life that a tiny boost from a caring friend or neighbor can catapult a person or family to the next level, and give them the stepping stone they need to thrive rather than just survive. Where does one turn? Who does one ask? When it’s not an emergency situation many do not ask, but rather tough it out, sometimes never getting over the obstacles preventing them from making progress.

Alicia Casarez and her boys, Christian and Jesse

The optimists among us might agree that there are few of us who wouldn’t help our neighbor in times of need. The problem is not that we can’t or won’t, it’s usually that we don’t know who needs what at any given time. Creating the opportunity for connection between those who need a helping hand and those willing to give of their time or resources, is the goal of a relatively new and burgeoning non-profit organization called Serve Reedley.

Serve Reedley is the brainchild of Pastor Nick Jones of Redeemer’s Church in Reedley. While the basic function of the non-profit group is to connect people with needs to people in the community who have resources to fulfill those needs, Pastor Jones and his church community aren’t just paying people to do direct service. Pastor Jones explained, “When we cross paths to work alongside others, hear one another’s stories, and serve one another, we believe it will help us overcome many major social ills, prejudices, political divisiveness, and more.”

As the pastor of a large church, Jones is well-positioned to know the need that exists in his community, as well as knowing the human capital that exists to address it. “We hear often that people would like to serve others, but knowing where to begin and figuring out how to engage serving opportunities is difficult,” Jones says. “We believe there are many people desiring to contribute to the well-being of our community, and a hub connecting their resources and abilities to needs will help others do just that.” Being a center that connects people, resources, and training opportunities to under-resourced individuals and communities is exactly the mission of Serve Reedley.

Program Director Megan Ortiz oversees all of the day-to-day operations of the organization. Ortiz gave some insight into how connections are made through the organization’s website. “So this is where individuals or families who have a specific need would go to our website and fill out an intake form. And then a volunteer will follow up with them, get more information about what they need, and then we put that request out to the community.” The website allows folks to share their needs in a non-judgmental way, and even allows for people to nominate others who they know could use a helping hand. Ortiz remembered that recently, “Someone nominated an elderly woman who takes care of her husband who has Alzheimer’s; she needed groceries. The story really touched somebody, and they decided not only to fulfill this need, but to buy groceries every month because they had a similar story.” According to Ortiz many requests are being fulfilled in less than a day and sometimes in minutes.

Serve Reedley often makes connections to certain communities because volunteers already have established connections to them. Maribel Herrera is in charge of a sub-program of Serve Reedley called Sustento de Vida, which in English translates to “sustenance of life.” The goal of Sustento is to reach out directly to the community of agricultural workers, who are often immigrants, and let them know that resources for a variety of issues are available to them. As the daughter of an agricultural worker herself, she knows the challenges they may face. Herrera explained, “Because some workers are undocumented or just not informed about their rights, many experience harassment or verbal abuse and do not know where to turn. In addition to providing occasional food distribution, we hand out resource cards so that they can contact us when they have a need. Even when we can’t meet their specific need, we are able to connect them with agencies that can.”

Sustento de Vida offers occasional food distribution to agricultural workers.

Another one of Serve Reedley’s recent endeavors has been to provide workforce training to unemployed or underemployed people in the community. Megan Ortiz and two other volunteers became certified trainers who provide workshops on job development skills and knowledge to give a leg up to those who want improve their employability. Ortiz explained, “Community Youth Ministries’ (CYM) Teen Mom program has been meeting on our campus for five plus years. We asked CYM if they wanted to be our first cohort to try out this new job training program.” Alicia, from the beginning of our story, was one of those very first participants. She completed the job training program along with several other teen moms and believes it has given her the skills to get the job she needs. “In addition to teaching us how to dress and present ourselves at interviews,” said Alicia, “we did mock interviews, so we were able to know how to answer questions during an interview. That’s something no one had ever taught me before.”

Alicia Casarez and Brooke Meade, two of the first Work Life Course graduates

Alicia and her boys represent perfectly the types of people in our local communities, who by no fault of their own, find themselves in a situation where just a little support will go a long way. They weren’t homeless or destitute, and Alicia wasn’t out fishing for handouts. She was working hard to provide for her small family with the resources she had. The same goes for those who work hard for others to have food on their tables. The vast majority of agricultural workers are striving to provide for their families and give them a better life. However, some are treated very poorly. And our elderly neighbor, who may be getting by, but is struggling with the complications of her husband’s Alzheimer’s. The simple act of grocery shopping by a neighbor relieves her of one burden. Pastor Jones summed up the problem well, “Most people acknowledge there are substantial needs in the community, but to address them at a community level, it is hard to know where to begin.”

Serve Reedley is definitely a place to begin. To contact them go to: www.servereedley.org.

Be sure to check out more Reedley articles in our Reedley category.

Jim Mulligan is a 6th generation Californian, born and raised in Selma. He has been employed in Reedley on and off for the last twenty years. He married his college sweetheart, a Reedley-ite, Kristi. They now reside in Reedley with their five children. Jim loves to create Bonsai and travel as much as possible, both near and far. He is a member of the KCUSD Board of Trustees and is employed by Reedley College as the Tutorial Coordinator.

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