Christmas can be the worst day of the year.
That's not the opinion of atheists, al-Qaida or the last reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh after Mrs. Claus serves chili but the Orange County Rescue Mission.
When you're living on the streets, Christmas can be the worst day of the year. Unless you've been there yourself, you can't imagine how much a hot meal, a friendly smile and the words "God bless you" can mean to someone who has nothing at Christmas.
Young children on the streets pay the highest price of all because they aren't responsible for the circumstances that lead them into a shelter at Christmas, according to the shelter, which says, "The gifts and meals you provide a child may change his or her life forever."
The cost to help is small: just $1.48 per meal. Unfortunately, during these recessionary times, scraping that up has been most difficult for the mission, which is dealing with an overwhelming need from a growing number of homeless and impoverished families this holiday season.
"This year alone, the Orange County Rescue Mission has provided more than 782,004 meals to homeless and impoverished families throughout Orange County," says Jim Palmer, the mission's president. "That is 469,016 more meals than the previous year.
"The effects of the recession have been felt extensively by families here in Orange County who are struggling to make ends meet," he continued. "The holidays are a particularly difficult time for those who are suffering. We are making a plea with the community to donate money and food to help us meet the tremendous need that exists in our area."
Those receiving meals from the mission live in cars, motels and on the streets, perhaps right around the corner from your home. Others reside at four mission facilities, including Village of Hope in Tustin.
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"Due to the intense demand for assistance, we have experienced an ongoing shortage of key food staples that create the foundation for the food boxes we provide to hungry families," said Palmer. "Now more than ever, we are asking the community to remember that every donation, regardless the size, has a positive impact on our ability to meet the needs of homeless families."
The mission's shopping wish list includes perishable items such as meat and non-perishable food staples such as peanut butter, jelly, canned vegetables, tuna and dry cereal. Personal hygiene items for all ages--from infants to the elderly--are also needed. The mission also accepts gift cards to stores like Target and Walmart.
Donations can be dropped off at the Village of Hope warehouse, One Hope Dr., Tustin (near Red Hill and Valencia), between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Visit the mission website or call (714) 247-4300 if you want to organize your own work, group or neighborhood food drive, donating the proceeds to the charity.
If it's too late to help this holiday season, but you'd still like to organize donations, go right ahead. The need is present 24/7 and not going away anytime soon.