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Orange County Nonprofit Provides Hope, Empowers the Needy

Pictured with a large supply of food to be donated to clients in need is “Sylvia,” a dedicated volunteer with Helping Others to Prepare for Eternity (H.O.P.E.), a nonprofit in Garden Grove that has seen an increase in need with the coronavirus pandemic.

 

By Laurie Hanson • December 11, 2020

Their name literally spells out H.O.P.E.

Giving both help and hope to those in need during the pandemic is the Garden Grove based nonprofit, Helping Others to Prepare for Eternity (H.O.P.E.). They are empowering clients towards self-sufficiency and have done so now for more than two decades.

“For the past 23 years it has been my honor to put faith into action on this blessed journey called H.O.P.E.,” said Gayle Knight, president/CEO. She founded the nonprofit in October 1997 after “being called by God to direct her compassion towards helping women and children.” She has freely served full time ever since without any personal compensation.

And, like Knight, everyone from their Board of Directors to other volunteers give of their time and resources to make a positive impact. There are many stories of making that difference including one recently of a man who literally cried with gratitude while picking up groceries for his grandchildren. Another is of a once 9-year-old boy receiving free music lessons with them only to return at the age of 23 as one of their music instructors.

Not only does the nonprofit provide immediate assistance for food, hygiene and diapers, case management and advocacy are provided along with workshops that encourage long term client self-sufficiency. Workforce development is provided in their Helping Women Succeed Program, and a long-term impact is made in their M&M Youth Mentoring Program. It provides tutoring, educational enrichment, arts, music appreciation and free music lessons.

“We seek to break the multi-generational cycle of poverty through our youth mentoring program,” Knight said.

Though some of their services are temporarily on hold, case management and safety checks are still done, but over the phone. This helps to ensure stability for their most vulnerable clients during the pandemic. The nonprofit has seen a profound impact from COVID-19 for both their clients and the organization’s operations, according to Knight.

“Even in the best of times, many of our clients struggled to meet their most basic needs like paying rent or utilities and putting food on the table,” she explained. “They are the ‘working poor,’ who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”

“Parents struggle with the impossible decision of paying rent or feeding their children,” Knight said. “Furthermore, parents who may still have some type of employment have to deal with childcare issues and assisting their children with remote learning. This is especially difficult for parents who are non-native English speakers.”

To meet the ever-growing need for food, H.O.P.E. has expanded their partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank in Orange County. They have increased their weekly efforts to “rescue” nutritious foods from three to eight grocery stores a week. Staff members and volunteers now make 31 weekly pick-ups, according to Knight.

“This is labor intensive work but is essential in meeting the demand,” she said. “It is well worth it to see the faces on those who otherwise would go without. Just last week, an older gentleman with medical issues, who is raising his grandchildren, wept upon receiving fresh meat and produce via H.O.P.E.’s drive-up, pickup line.”

As a service organization that has historically relied heavily on direct client contact, H.O.P.E. quickly realized that new and innovative measures were needed to continue serving the community.

“One innovation was drive-up appointments for food and basic supply pickups in our back alley,” said Knight. “[It’s one of the ways] our staff maintains safety.”

Once food security and basic needs are addressed, H.O.P.E. provides the case management and workshops necessary to increase opportunities for their clients. Their workshops include confidence building, empowerment, and employment assistance. Ever since the pandemic’s beginning, the overall need for their services has increased significantly, and continues to grow.

“Prior to the onset of the pandemic, we served on average 800 to 900 people each month,” Knight said. “In October alone, we distributed 15 tons of food, equal to 18,750 meals to 2,200 people.”

“The challenges of increased demand are compounded by many other non-profits and churches reducing or altogether eliminating their services,” she said. “But our Board of Directors never considered shutting down or reducing services.”

H.O.P.E. continues to expand services thanks long-standing partners like the Second Harvest Food Bank, Community Action Partnership and generous support from private foundations, businesses, churches, and individual donors. Knight spends much of her time these days soliciting donations to keep their programs and doors open.

With the help of eight Cal State Fullerton interns, the nonprofit continued to not only meet client physical needs but kept their long-standing commitment to serve the whole person. The interns developed remote modules for their Helping Women Succeed Program, for their piano and cello lessons, and for additional educational enrichment.

“Historically, one of our most successful and well-received programs are our free music lessons to low-income and at-risk youth,” Knight said. “The stay-at-home orders and social distancing protocols could have significantly disrupted the music program. However, we quickly switched to virtual music lessons.”

“By continuing the lessons, young people are given at least a small sense of normalcy, while pursuing their passion for music,” she said. “Moreover, by offering the virtual music lessons, we continue to provide our instructors with income.”

Going forward, H.O.P.E. is carrying on with their mission of, “Turning despair into HOPE.” Their goal is to be the most efficient and effective one-stop safety net in all of Orange County, according to Knight.

The organization holds to the truth of an old proverb which says, Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

“Addressing the immediate need is absolutely essential, but it is not enough,” Knight said. “If people are not provided with education, opportunity, and tools for improvement, hunger will never be eradicated.”

For more information about H.O.P.E., please visit online at www.hopebiz.org.

 

 

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