Having depleted much of its available resources, Seeds of Service, Brick Township, is turning to the wider community with an online fundraiser to assist in bringing both necessities and Christmas gifts to the more than 1,100 families they serve.
Seeds of Service outreach makes urgent plea for donations to purchase food, Christmas gifts
The Seeds of Hope Fundraiser, launched in mid-November, can be found at www.seedsofservice.help/seeds-of-hope-fundraiser. And the survival of SOS’s myriad programs for families, students with special needs and seniors absolutely depends upon its success.
“We’re in a tough position – we’re down to the bare minimum,” program director Christie Winters said, explaining that the coronavirus pandemic has left the outreach scrambling for help. “We don’t even have one Christmas gift.”
SOS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and its food donations ordinarily come from large drives run by parishes and Catholic schools, as well as area schools and corporations such as local media outlets and post offices, area grocery stores and the food bank that partners with them.
“We’ve never experienced this before: nobody did the food drive this year,” Winters said passionately. “Those drives usually carry us through the winter.”
Every food basket SOS donated for the first few weeks for Thanksgiving had to be purchased from its savings. Although Winters applied for Economic Development Administration funding through CARES, the monies granted are based on employees’ salaries. SOS only has seven employees. With COVID closures, the agency is facing a $160,000 shortfall.[[In-content Ad]]“How do you quantify missing 80 volunteers?” Winters asked. “We went from 26 programs that help the community to four or five. Our students with special needs used to be bused in to help us run the food pantry; now they can’t.”
A few of those programs have been creatively altered to function during the pandemic, Winters said. “We developed activity boxes for our special needs students that bus drivers now deliver to their homes, and they connect with us via Google Classroom,” she explained. “Several interns are still working with us through our work-preparedness programs. And our community garden is still growing our produce.”
Another offshoot of the coronavirus restrictions was the development of a text-message system for clients to contact SOS directly.
“Even though our outreach department is working from home, they can interact through text,” she said. “We were able to tackle the intakes through a website for families in need.”
Some area businesses are also coming through. “Trader Joe’s gives us two pallets of food a day… and fresh bread comes from Bimbo Bakery,” Winters listed. “The local Rotary helps us – they have an account with Cream O Land, which helps us get orange juice, milk and butter.”
Students from Donovan Catholic, Toms River, helped package 800 bags of food for Thanksgiving, with food pallets delivered to the school from SOS’s truck, then returned with help from the high school’s forklift.
The shortages, however, continue at local food banks and at nearby grocery stores, where people are purchasing more food to prepare at home.
“Before COVID, we used to pick up from 16 different grocery stores. Now only three,” she said. “[The food] is just not there.”
But Winters is hopeful that the fundraiser will make all the difference. “If we can get everyone to donate $5-$10, we can get through this,” she said. “God will always provide.”