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IDYLLWILD HELP CENTER

As published in The Community Foundation Spotlight in The Press Enterprise on January 19, 2019.

An Idyllwild organization helping those in need faces the challenge of assisting a community still recovering from the Cranston Fire.

Idyllwild Help CenterBínai Bírith supports the community with a donation to Idyllwild Help Center.When the Cranston Fire forced Idyllwild residents to evacuate during the busy summer season of 2018, the community found itself with unexpected challenges. When residents returned, they were grateful that the sleepy town had survived, but were confronted with financial hardships, said Colleen Meyer, long-time resident and executive director of the Idyllwild HELP Center.

“We gave out 466 food bags in a matter of a week,” said Meyer. “Typically, we give out 130 to 150 a month. People lost all the food they had in their refrigerator and freezer. We went from regular services to basics needs for people who never anticipated needing services.”

The organization received an astounding amount of support from the residents of Idyllwild and surrounding communities. There was even a local hotshot crew that had fought the fire who pooled together their cash on hand and donated $500 to help.

Idyllwild Help CenterIdyllwild Arts donates turkeys for Thanksgiving to IdSkye Zambrana Client Services of IHC, Colleen Meyer Executive Director of IHC, Pamela Jordan President of Idyllwild Arts.In addition to food, many of the residents struggled with a loss of income. The cost of hotel stays and the lack of a pay while the town was shut down was a challenge for many residents who live paycheck to paycheck. Some of those working in the service industry had to wait over a month to go back to work as tourism came to a halt, according to Meyer.

“There was a trickledown effect for so many,” Meyer said. “It took a long time for people to want to come back up.”

The Idyllwild HELP Center has been assisting residents of Idyllwild, Mountain Center, or Pine Cove meet basic needs since 1992 and is the only structured social services organization on the hill. While many think of Idyllwild as a resort town, 67% of the residents the HELP Center serves are seniors or disabled. Others are those who are low-income individuals who work multiple jobs in the service industry to support their families, according to Meyer.

“The people coming in here are really actively trying to improve their lives” said Meyer. “Most of them are us and just one thing happened. They are our parents, our grandparents, and they you and me.”

The HELP Center offers a broad range of services in addition to its food pantry including school supplies, child care, utility assistance, firewood, personal hygiene products and basic need items. More than helping with basic needs, the organization gives people a sense of hope, according to Meyer.

“Without hope you have nothing,” she said. “We want them to know that it will get better, you’re not alone and people care.”

Recently, the organization received a grant from the Gimbel Foundation through The Community Foundation to assist with serving seniors. This year, the organization needs even more help with in-kind and monetary donations to meet the increased need.

Idyllwild Help CenterIdyllwild community members donate food to help out neighbors.“Our pantry was really stuffed to the gills after the fire,” said Meyer. “Now the donations have diminished. We are getting low and having a harder time filling food bags and with the winter season, people need propane, utilities, and firewood.”

Those who wish to help can also donate to the HELP Center’s Thrift Store, which supports the organization’s operations. The Thrift Store also provides many clients with the opportunity to purchase necessary items they couldn’t otherwise afford.

“This is our mighty cause and it calls for some mighty heroes,” said Meyer. “It takes a village and I don’t mean just our village. Idyllwild means a lot to many people and its part of their story too.”

For more information visit idyllwildhelpcenter.org or call 951-659-2110.