Community - December 29, 2010

Holiday Fund: 'Bela's story: an example of hope and spirit'

Submitted by Maleah Choi, development consultant with Ecumenical Hunger Program.

Have you ever had to skip a meal because your wallet was empty and you couldn't buy food? Seen your children go hungry because you only had enough money to pay the rent? Had to decide between purchasing medicine for a sick family member or groceries for the week?

It is heartbreaking to realize that this is the reality for Ecumenical Hunger Program families. People who were already struggling must now fight even harder to survive.

Providing for more than material needs, the Ecumenical Hunger Program (EHP) seeks to be a companion to ("sharing bread with") those who are experiencing difficult times. We work directly with individuals and their families to help them find the strength and resources they need to face the turmoil and despair that can threaten to overcome them.

We offer both a helping hand and a supportive relationship. We seek to keep hope and spirit alive even when hardship seems overwhelming.

Bela's story is a true example of hope and spirit, especially during the holidays.

Bela came to America from Fiji in 1995. She has never had enough money for gifts for any special occasions, and in 1998 some of Bela's church friends suggested that she apply at EHP for Christmas gifts for her children.

In addition, she says, "EHP has helped me tremendously with warm clothes for the winter, cooking classes, and the Women's Support Group."

Bela is grateful that EHP offers healthful food choices because she is a vegetarian. She especially likes the fresh fruit and vegetables from the EHP garden as well as tickets for the farmers' market.

Bela has high blood pressure. This last year, a wisdom-tooth infection spread down her neck and into her shoulder. Because of the infection she lost 30 pounds and still suffers from immobility in one arm.

She takes care of her husband who has several health challenges, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and complications from a ruptured appendix that almost took his life.

They have four daughters and five grandchildren, so at any given time Bela may have up to eight people staying in her home and under her care. For her birthday on Oct. 23 this year, Bela dreamed of a makeover.

EHP staff person Jackie Owens found a resource in Campbell — Myla BEE Styling ( — that was willing to give Bela a makeover, including dying her hair, a facial, makeup, and beautiful vintage earrings.

She came back glowing, and after selecting a special outfit from EHP's appointment closet, she looked and felt like a new woman! Bela says this was the very best day of her life.

In 2009, because of the generosity of our supporters, EHP distributed 5,262 food boxes; approximately 1,000 families were provided with fresh produce through the EHP Produce mobile; 6,844 individuals were served supplemental food resources; 4,794 hot meals were distributed through the Monday Night Meal program; 3,495 families visited the EHP clothes closet; 2,544 furniture items and appliances were distributed; 256 referrals were given for shelter, childcare, job search and education; $1,228,694 in in-kind donations were received for distribution to EHP families; and 9,331 hours were donated by community volunteers.

Visit for more information. EHP is based at 2411 Pulgas Ave. in East Palo Alto.


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