Sacred Heart Community Service launched its annual holiday program this week with new guidelines to protect volunteers and members receiving assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year, the San Jose-based nonprofit expects to provide 7,700 families with holiday food boxes and 2,400 families with gift cards to buy toys for more than 6,000 children.
Demone Carter, Sacred Heart’s director of community engagement, said at a Monday morning news conference that this year’s program is especially important.
“Covid-19 has impacted low-income essential workers and people of color more than others,” Carter said. “It is not just about losing income or getting sick, it is about the fear of getting sick in high-risk jobs. The worry about how kids will access high-quality education and the stress of wondering how to pay the rent. We need to come together as a community now more than ever to spread joy as we show care.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the need for food and rental assistance in Santa Clara County, it’s also changing the way the non-profit will be operating its holiday program this year.
“We used to do three days of Thanksgiving distribution and two days of Christmas food distribution,” said Rachel Wright, Sacred Heart’s director of fundraising. “In order to meet higher demand and adhere to social distancing, we’ve expanded the time frame over which we’re doing that from three to five days for Thanksgiving and two to three days for Christmas. We think that will really help.”
There will be no appointment times to pick up Thanksgiving and Christmas food boxes, which will have three days worth of groceries—including all of the regular holiday fixings—and a chicken, turkey or ham.
Thanksgiving food boxes will be available for walk-in pickup from 9am to 4pm on Nov. 19 and 23 and from 9am to 6pm on Nov. 24. Drive-through pickup for Thanksgiving food boxes will be available from 9am to 4pm on Nov. 20 and 25.
For Christmas, food boxes will be available for walk-in pickup from 9am to 4pm on Dec. 21 and 9am to 6pm on Dec. 22 and for drive-through pickup from 9am to 4pm on Dec. 23.
Sacred Heart’s Christmas toy program is also expected to look a bit different because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We would set up a little mini-mall where parents could come and shop for toys for their kids,” Carter said of years past. “Because of Covid, this is not what we’re doing this year, we don’t think it would be a safe option for our community, so we have pivoted to doing a gift card giveaway.”
Gift cards, which will be in an amount of $50 per child under the age of 17, will be available for pick up Dec. 14 through 18 by appointment only. Appointments can be scheduled online.
Families or individuals who plan on receiving gift cards or holiday food boxes from Sacred Heart must be members at the nonprofit. Sign-ups can be done online for free at tfaforms.com/4811610. Sacred Heart requires all applicants provide a photo ID (which can be non-U.S. issued) for adults and any documentation with a full name and birth date for children.
Carter said that during pickup times, all volunteers will be wearing masks and gloves. Members and Sacred Heart staff will also be required to wear masks inside at all times.
“We know that this is a very challenging time,” Carter said. “We are all dealing with a public health crisis but we just want folks to know that Sacred Heart is an essential service. We have to be here to make sure that families can eat and have support on their rent and the many other things we do. We plan to stay open and to do so we have to adhere to very strict protocols for the health and safety of the community.”
To sign up for a volunteer shift, make an online donation or find out more information on donating a chicken, turkey or ham for the holiday program, visit sacredheartcs.org/holidays.