A group of five interns from The City Church in 4S Ranch didn’t let a rainy day stand in the way of their cleaning up an apartment on Aster Street for occupancy by a family coming out of homelessness.
The quintet of young adults spent several hours Feb. 28 dusting, wiping down walls, cabinets and counters, cleaning windows and clearing out excess stuff from a two-bedroom unit that is part of Interfaith Community Services’ transitional housing for families.
Caleb Riley, 20, stood atop a kitchen counter to wipe down the higher shelves, while explaining the church’s internship program, which brings teens and young adults from around the world to church sites for years of study, mission work and community service.
His compatriot, Annie Buonvicino, 18, said that their community service included feeding the hungry in downtown San Diego, bringing gifts and supplies to orphanages in Mexico and providing food boxes for families in need.
The interns can spend three years in the program. Many of them travel domestically and overseas to share their ministry and do service projects.
Amy Heidman, 28, leader of the church’s homeless ministry, enlisted the crew for this project through a connection with Mary Ferro, faith liaison for Interfaith Community Services.
The young people said they were happy to help.
“I like (doing this). I like to clean,” said Christine Heyne, 19, who was joined by Andy Heckbert, 23, in completing the crew.
The job wasn’t too difficult, the interns agreed.
“I was expecting it to be a lot dirtier than this,” said Riley.Comment on this Article
Clergy helped create Interfaith Community Services more than 30 years ago, and it is their support and the support of their faith centers that allows the agency to help others today.
That was the message delivered to about 30 ministers and other representatives of North County faith centers at a Clergy Appreciation Brunch Feb. 19 at the ICS Nutrition Center. The religious leaders dined on a gluten-free vegetarian broccoli quiche and fresh fruit during the annual get-to-know-each-other event.
This year saw an especially strong presence of ICS board members, there to provide the clergy an opportunity to directly communicate to them their thoughts, concerns and suggestions.“The essence of the brunch is to express our appreciation for (the clergy’s) help and that was enhanced this year by having so many board members present,” said Mary Ferro, Interfaith’s faith liaison.
Ferro, Craig Jones, interim executive director, and Jason Coker, director of community connections, each expressed their thanks and gratitude for the support and assistance provided by clergy and their respective faith centers.
Ferro cited several examples during the past year when area congregations rose to the occasion to support a program or individual in need. That included financial support from faith centers that allowed Interfaith to continue serving breakfast on weekends to people in need. “You all participate and you all do such wonderful things,” said Ferro.Comment on this Article
Ty G. is one example. Ty was in recovery at The Fellowship Center in Escondido when he learned about Interfaith Community Services. He came to the Escondido office in September 2013, meeting social services client advocate Kuini Tuaau (pictured with Ty at right).
Tuaau helped him obtain a California ID, and a one-month North County transit pass. She hesitated to do more, wondering about his commitment to moving forward. “At first I didn’t think he was serious about looking for a job,” she said.
In order to get a second bus pass, Ty wrote a letter explaining that he needed more help. Ty, a writer and a self-taught chef, had arranged some interviews, but discovered that many of the companies where he sought employment were beyond the limits of his transit pass.
The letter convinced Tuaau of Ty’s sincerity.
“I spoke with him and it sounded like he was really trying to get his life back together,” she said.
Once convinced, Tuaau signed Ty up for the Family Self-Sufficiency program at Interfaith. Through that he was able to obtain monthly bus passes for all of San Diego County, and eligibility for employment services.
“Once they gave me that bus pass, I took off. I went from being able to afford two interviews a week to two a day,” said Ty. “On average, I was doing eight interviews a week, some as far away as Sorrento Valley.”
Through the interview process, Ty realized that his work skills were rusty. So he took advantage of Interfaith’s employment services programs and soon landed a job paying him a living wage. He now works as a marketing coordinator for a vehicle technology company in Escondido — ironically, within walking distance from his residence.
Ty added, “Once I started interviewing, it helped my recovery dynamically. I remembered I had something to give to the world,” he said. “I’m doing well in recovery, I have money and savings, and I’m able to help people.”
Ty has paid off the rent for the four months he stayed at the Fellowship Center, has found a new place to live, has a car and hopes to have his wife join him from Los Angeles sometime soon.
He gives much credit to Interfaith for starting him on the road to success.
“I think Interfaith Community Services is singularly the most important resource in Escondido for people trying to get their lives together. I say that having explored many other resources. Interfaith is the most important,” he said. “I’ll be forever indebted.”Comment on this Article
Some high-tech mapping by students from Palomar College could aid Interfaith Community Services and other food-delivery agencies in creating more efficient ways of getting food to the people who need it.
Students in the Introduction to Geographic Information Systems class at Palomar just created their third iteration of an interactive map of U.S. Census block groups in North San Diego County. Detailed within the map are areas with high rates of poverty where people may lack food availability.
Over the past three semesters, groups of 2-3 students at a time have created additional layers to the map that show the locations of the top 12 food service centers in the region as well as faith center supporters of Interfaith Community Services.
Plans for future classes include adding a data layer for public schools, other faith centers and medical clinics, all of which could become partners in the effort to provide access to food for those in need, said Craig Jones, associate director for Interfaith Community Services.
“There are all kinds of possibilities here. You can see the spatial relationships,” said Jones. “Layer by layer we see spatially how to get a better plan to get food to populations in need.”
The most recent group of students made a presentation of the project in class in early December. The students wrote a five-page paper summarizing and analyzing their results. The biggest benefit for the students, though, is the real-world experience, said Emily Perkins, the class instructor.
“They get really excited when they realize the work they’re doing is going to benefit somebody. That’s definitely used as a motivation,” she explained.
GIS is a computerized interactive mapping system that can be a ‘very powerful tool” for processing data, said Melisa Caric, GIS program coordinator at Palomar College. It is already used for crime analysis, marketing, mapping disease outbreaks and many more applications.
“You use specialized software to do higher-level analysis: Where should we put our next site? Where are our customers?” said Caric. “It is very specialized, very particular software that is gaining more popularity.”
For Interfaith Community Services and other food agencies, using the map clearly shows gaps where people in need lack easy access to the supplies they need.
“We want to move to the next step, computerized work done on our behalf,” said Jones. “One of the real values of GIS is to be able to do real-time comparisons. To create a capacity for food service integrity projects, we need real-time access on computers.”
ICS is working with Palomar College to establish a partnership to accomplish that. The bottom line is to establish a more efficient food services program among regional agencies.
Such a partnership could help those agencies analyze how they use their resources: trucks, warehouse capacity, delivery schedules and more, explained Jones.
“Interfaith, North County Food Bank, Community Resource Center and other agencies all have our own separate sources of where we get food from; different schedules of getting food,” he said. “Why should we not create a coordinated system of pickups to get food to those agencies? It could help us schedule trips, saving time, energy and gasoline.”
The benefits aren’t limited to food services.
“There’s so much potential in this kind of data capture and spatial display. It’s not just food systems, it’s anything we as a nonprofit are doing,” Jones added. “We want to create permanent, real-time capacity with housing, and medical assistance.
“We can extend the line data. There’s a lot to build on. It’s a matter of time and some money. We can build a good case that this is valuable work and worth a grant source to fund it.”Comment on this Article
Making use of employment services is easier now for Interfaith’s Spanish-speaking clients.
Thanks to the efforts of employment specialist Nidya Ramirez, those clients now have access to documents, as well as various workshops and services, in Spanish.
Upon her hiring at Interfaith Community Services in July, Ramirez began translating all the materials used by the employment services department into Spanish. The department is now offering separate orientations and job academies in Spanish and English.
“This is a long overdue offering of our agency,” said Olga Diaz, director of employment services. “Adding Spanish forms and orientations makes our offerings more effective for the community.”
It took Ramirez about a month to translate all the various documents and PowerPoint presentations used by the employment services department. Before that, even if a client’s case manager spoke Spanish, all the applications in the initial registration process were in English.
Having the forms available in Spanish eases the learning process for the job-seeking clients. They are able to better understand how to fill out job applications in English after getting used to understanding the questions asked on the forms in their native language.
“They learn to recognize words, so that when they walk into a place and apply, they can recognize those terms,” Ramirez explained.
Offering orientations and job academies in Spanish allows more clients to participate in the employment programs, which include assistance in writing resumes and cover letters, interviewing, and how best to detail their past work experience for prospective employers.
“They need to know how to show in an application ‘I’m great.’ Sometimes that can be tough,” said Ramirez. “During the job academy they have a resume component; how to write it, why it is important. Then when they are meeting (employers) they can get more in depth.”
The new offerings have already helped clients land new jobs. Ramirez mentioned a man who came into the North County Labor Connection day-laborer office looking for work. He was referred to employment services and soon was hired to work in a nursery. A female client was hired by a local casino after going through the Spanish-language training.
“She was really happy. She came by and brought me a Christmas gift,” said Ramirez. “She was really thankful she was able to navigate the process.”
In addition to the offerings in Spanish, the employment services department has also created a hiring program for domestic workers at Church of the Resurrection in Escondido.
Similar to Interfaith’s day-laborer program, the new effort will connect housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers at the church with other church members in need of those services.
The new job registry makes it easier for domestic workers to find work. It also adds a level of comfort for the workers and those hiring them.
“One employer said she felt comfortable hiring (a worker) because she was part of Resurrection Church,” said Ramirez. “So it’s not only generating employment, it’s creating some community within the church.”
The program began in November.
“We’re working on spreading the word,” said Ramirez.Comment on this Article