Holiday Fund: Helping families recover from life's tragedies

Gifts to the Almanac's Holiday Fund help 10 local organizations, including the Fair Oaks Community Center.

By Teri Chin, human services manager, city of Redwood City.

Over the last few months, the Fair Oaks Community Center has been deeply involved in the relief and recovery efforts for over 140 households displaced by two six-alarm multi-unit apartment fires that occurred in July and October of this year.

Our assistance has included food, transportation, shelter referrals, and deposit assistance in addition to being a hub for relief and recovery assistance, informational meetings, and support groups.

We have worked closely with the Red Cross, the county of San Mateo, InnVision Shelter Network, and other community partners to provide relief and support to the individuals and families displaced by these fires.

Norma Lara's family was displaced by the July Hallmark Apartment fire. Norma participates in our monthly food distribution, so I recognized her when she walked into the evacuation center at the Fair Oaks Community Center at 3 a.m. on July 7.

That night her two grandchildren were staying with her and her 15-year-old son, and thankfully, all four of them were safely evacuated.

Like everyone else displaced by this fire, Norma and her son lost everything. With a bit of luck and lots of hard work on her part, Norma found a new place to live within just a few weeks of the fire.

But the new place was going to be $300 more per month than she had been paying for the last 14 years. Fair Oaks Community Center partnered with the Housing Industry Foundation and the Red Cross to provide assistance toward her deposit and first month's rent.

She told me that as a single working mom, this was going to be a struggle, but that she would find a way to make it work. I referred her to a financial education workshop series at the community center, where she learned how to budget and save and reduce expenses.

Since then, Norma has become a regular volunteer with our monthly food program in addition to being a beneficiary of that program. She shows a resilience that is so common among the people we see every day seeking assistance at the Fair Oaks Community Center.

Each year, the Fair Oaks Community Center Information and Referral Program serves approximately 2,300 households, providing food assistance, housing assistance, shelter referrals, utility assistance, transportation assistance, and other vital services to help families and individuals recover from life's tragedies and challenges and survive in our high-cost community.

Note: Go to or call (650) 780-7500 or stop by 2600 Middlefield Road in Redwood City for more information.

Donate online to the Almanac's Holiday Fund.


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