Service: It's simply history

Michele Hassen packs a Thanksgiving basket for Westlake residents. Photo by Nate Dreher

For those who have gone to bed hungry and thought it was just during the Depression, know that it happens today in every community. Hardship situations exist through unemployment, underemployment, disability, or for those older, a fixed income that cannot support the costs of housing, food, prescriptions, etc.

In the 1970s a group of volunteers recognized the need for holiday food baskets in the city of Westlake. This group served individuals and families identified by the clergy, school personnel and neighbors. In addition to holiday baskets, shoes, coats and other necessary items were also provided through donated funds.

A few years later, the City of Westlake created a department to address the social service needs of the entire community, establishing an assistance program. The department became known as Community Services and includes a year-round emergency food bank, holiday food baskets, Christmas gifts through the Adopt-A-Family program, prescription assistance for older adults, overnight accommodations for victims of domestic violence, and various other assistances.  

The assessment for need parallels government entitlement programs. Forty years later there remain Westlake residents in need. The examples are plentiful: the second- and fourth-graders who wore shoes without socks to school because they didn’t have winter boots and the older lady who wanted only one thing, a blanket, because hers was more than 15 years old.

This assistance program is funded entirely by donations. A variety of food drives, food donation drops and requests for funds are made throughout the year. Typically, paper products, toiletries, cleaning supplies, canned meats and cereal are in short supply on the food shelves. Many non-perishable items are received, but when it is necessary to complement items in the food bank, monetary contributions are used to replenish the food bank.

Low-income families using SNAP/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) are restricted from buying bath soap, dish and laundry detergents, cleaning and other household supplies, vitamins, medicines and pet foods with this entitlement so those items are especially needed.

Buying soup, canned fruit or shampoo soon? Consider buying an additional item or two and donating it to the more than 250 Westlake residents who currently qualify for assistance. Throughout the month of December drop-off sites include the Westlake Recreation Center, 28955 Hilliard Blvd., Westlake Porter Public Library, 27333 Center Ridge Road, and Westlake Community Services, 29694 Center Ridge Road.

This year a holiday food drive is being sponsored by the Westlake Women’s Club. A flyer will be distributed to Westlake residences in advance with their members picking up donations curbside on Dec. 7. Non-perishable items may include canned meats, vegetables and fruits, pasta and sauce, peanut butter, jelly, soup, gelatin, hot chocolate mixes, syrup, popcorn, cereal and all paper, hygiene and cleaning products. Want to make it special? For Christmas, candies, cookies, crackers and chips are especially appreciated – this is the one time during the year that perishable items are accepted. Please be sure to check expiration dates.

City social service workers meet with clients on a regular basis and make referrals to other programs and entitlements; however, there is great demand, especially for those families with young children who need school clothes and winter apparel. For these needs, the Adopt-A-Family program was created. There are individuals, families, organizations and businesses assisting others through this program.

Several Westlake families choose to purchase gifts for those less fortunate residents in lieu of buying for each other and some have hosted holiday parties and ask guests to bring a donation for a family. The program suggests participants “adopt” an individual or an entire family and provide requested clothing and perhaps a toy or grocery item. Donors are currently needed for the Christmas season.

To donate food or a holiday item, call the Westlake Community Services Department, 440-899-3544.

Joyce Able Schroth

Director, Community Services Department, City of Westlake

Read More on Community Service
Volume 5, Issue 24, Posted 9:58 AM, 11.26.2013