Irvine's home-grown philanthropy, Families Forward, has a new place to put down roots.
On Thursday, June 13, the charitable organization that helps people find independent housing celebrated a new home of its own.
Since 1984, Families Forward has been providing housing and services for local families in crisis. The non-profit organization started as a collaboration between community volunteers, the City of Irvine and The Irvine Company.
Over the past 30 years, Families Forward has grown to a thriving source of assistance for South County's needy. Over 8,000 individuals benefited from the program last year alone.
When people think of Orange County, they may not think of homelessness or families on the brink of financial crisis. But an unexpected job loss, sudden illness, divorce or rent increase can push a family into homelessness.
Families Forward offers a hand up, not a hand out. All services are designed to give families the tools necessary to reestablish permanent housing and to assist those in crisis so that homelessness can be prevented altogether.
The 8 Thomas Program Center provides much needed elbow room for programs and services. Along with an expanded food pantry and welcome area, there are family counseling rooms and a new Learning Center.
This vital safety net of services is made possible through community collaboration and the generosity of volunteers, primarily from the City of Irvine.
Volunteers donate over 16,000 hours of service to the organization; working in the food pantry, preparing transitional housing for residents, and answering the more than 4,000 phone calls requesting help each year.
"It's impressive how this organization uses limited resources so well," said Meg English who has been a volunteer for the past nine years. "It is an incredibly efficient operation that serves so many people."
Aid comes from local churches who sponsor food drives, doctors and dentists in the community who donate free professional services, and from Irvine residents who give time, money and food donations. Families Forward provides services to the community by members of the community and demonstrates the power of neighbors helping neighbors.
Most people think about giving during the holiday season, but summertime is one of the most important times to donate, since the food pantry shelves become depleted.
For information on how to get involved, visit the website at www.families-forward.org.