From where I’m writing this column at my home it is less than 300 feet to the entrance to the homeless shelter. I’ve been watching with interest construction on the shower facility being built onto ECHO’s (El Camino Homeless Organization) new building, formerly a church.
I’m so proud that this community has embraced the shelter at that location on the mall below the high school, and across the street from Atascadero’s original community building, the Federated Church Building, today known as the ABC Church.
Atascadero residents have always been generous to the less fortunate, as evidenced each year by the massive Christmas Outreach in the National Guard Armory where families get food, warm coats, books and toys.
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According to Carl and Jeanne Robbins, coordinators of the project, the kickoff for the food drive begins this weekend, Dec. 7 and 8, with food being collected at Vons, Albertsons and The Grocery Outlet. Food will also be collected the following weekend, Dec. 14 and 15, at those same three markets. Food donated there will go directly to the Atascadero Loaves & Fishes Christmas Project. Many people are confused in thinking that food donated to The Food Bank goes to Loaves & Fishes. The Food Bank has paid employees, and food that Loaves & Fishes gets from the Food Bank is purchased, albeit at a reduced price.
The local outreach project began in 1984, and thousands of adults and children have benefited. More than 400 families, which translates to just under 2,000 men, women and children, were served at the Armory in December 2012.
What makes the local outreach even more special, the Robbinses say, is that so many people are involved — service clubs, businesses and schoolchildren of all ages. Atascadero Junior High already has a food drive underway, and other local schools will follow up this month.
Those seeking assistance can begin to register this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again the following Monday through Friday, 3:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Loaves & Fishes office, 5411 El Camino Real. First in line on distribution day does not mean first served. The order for pickup will be randomly assigned. To sign up you need a photo ID and proof of address.
Atascadero’s outreach goes to not only this community, but residents of Templeton, Creston, Santa Margarita and California Valley. There is no limit to how many sign up, which translates to: there is no limit to the level of human kindness and concern for those who are less fortunate in our community.
Christmas Outreach 2013 will take place Dec. 18.