Community Mission of Hope continues to feed those in need

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Craig Poston, a volunteer at Community Mission of Hope, loads food items into the trunk of a car during a distribution of food to people receiving the items in a drive-up operation, March 27. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

During a typical week at the Community Mission of Hope in Temecula, Executive Director Maegan Bourlett works face to face with individuals and families in need of help with food as usually, the organization requires proof of need in the form of paycheck stubs and paperwork. But these are unusual times.

“We’re waiving all of that, and we normally don’t do a drive-thru,” Bourlett said. “Typically, they get out and they get it and they take their own food to their cars. We’ve had to kind of redo the whole program. Right now we’re not asking for proof of income or anything like that, if you need food, drive up and we’ll load it into your car.”

These days, Community Mission of Hope averaging more than 100 cars per day.

Christian Tostado, a volunteer at Community Mission of Hope, helps distribute food to people in a drive-thru line in Temecula. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

“We’re here about five days a week,” Bourlett said. “I would say the average is about 100 cars a day. Wednesdays tend to be a little lower because we used to not be open on Wednesdays, so we just have the newer people coming on Wednesdays.”

Because of the massive increase in unemployment all over the nation, more people are hurting for money and thus for food.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the need for those who were hourly employees who have been let go temporarily,” Bourlett said. “I think that the majority, I would say it’s probably 70% is our regular people that we serve. But we’ve seen probably a 30% to 40% increase with people having job loss or are taking food to elderly who can’t leave their homes. A lot of people picking up for the elderly and delivering it to them because they can’t leave.”

A Community Mission of Hope volunteer takes food to clients as the Temecula food pantry has altered their food distribution method to drive-up only in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

The organization also makes deliveries to elderly who aren’t able to leave their homes.

Community Mission of Hope is a volunteer-driven organization, and some of the interactions that have taken place over the last couple of weeks have left a mark on Bourlett and the organization.

“We had a gal who was temporarily let go from a company who came over and volunteered here,” Bourlett said. “When she went out to put food in someone’s car, they started crying and it was her co-worker who said, ‘I don’t have a job.’ And she just looked at her and said, ‘I don’t either.’ And so it was kind of a beautiful moment where they both were in the same situation, she recognized her as a friendly face, and one of them was serving the other.”

The organization relies on food drives from local organizations and churches and schools, donations from the community and donations from grocery stores to keep their supply of food up to sufficient levels.

Volunteers at Community Mission of Hope sort food in shopping carts and load them into the trunk of cars waiting in a drive-up line. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

“At the beginning of all this, the grocery stores dropped off, we really didn’t have much coming in from them, but I’d say pretty quick, within a week it got back up,” Bourlett said. “I think once people realized food wasn’t going to be a shortage, the grocery stores had food to deliver, so, that’s been good that the grocery store product has kind of leveled out.

“Our biggest drop-off is obviously the food drives because schools aren’t open, churches aren’t open.”

Bourlett said the three things that the organization needs are donations to purchase meat, which is short supply; food drop offs and volunteers, which has been most heavily impacted by the quarantine orders.

Community Mission of Hope volunteers distribute food to clients and load the food into their cars in an effort to practice social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

“Typically, our volunteers are retired seniors and a lot of them are adults with special needs that come in with those companies like CareRight,” Bourlett said. “Almost immediately we lost all of our seniors and those groups because those are the two susceptible and a lot of those with special needs have health issues. We lost all of those volunteers. But, we’ve had a new array of people rising up, coming in volunteering.”

Bourlett said donations can also be made through InstaCart, as long as donors specify deliveries for 10 a.m. to noon, Mondays through Fridays at the facility.

For more information on how residents can help Community Mission of Hope, visit https://cmoh.net.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.