For some families in the Silicon Valley, the holidays are just another time when they need to figure out how to get by. Between job loss, the high cost of rent, the rising cost of food and more, these families are struggling to make ends meet every day of the year, which makes the holidays that much more difficult.
Luckily, there are local agencies like Sunnyvale Community Services (SCS) that make a concerted effort to fulfill all of the holiday needs.
On Dec. 16, SCS opened its facility to welcome families for the holidays. The agency partnered with 40 local agencies to create the Winter Wellness Fair. Not only did families receive holiday gift cards and food, but it was a festive atmosphere that included health services along with a visit with Santa Claus.
“So, people were able to get their vision tested; their hearing tested. We had public health from the county giving flu shots and COVID shots,” said SCS Exec. Dir. Marie Bernard. “We had a fire truck. We had Santa. We had face painting. Half of the people who attended were children. It was all of our low-income families in the area, and it was absolutely joyful.”
Bernard said more than 500 people showed up for this year’s Winter Wellness Fair, more than double the attendance compared to last year.
For her, the turnout was heartening because it’s helping to establish SCS as the go to agency for people in North Santa Clara County looking for services.
“We reach people [county agencies] normally would not have reached because a lot of this stuff is happening in San Jose. It’s hard for people in North County to get there. But again, we’re the trusted hub,” said Bernard. “We really dreamed when we moved into our building two years ago that we were going to be a hub for safety net services. And it’s happened.”
Bernard says that since the end of the pandemic, things have gotten worse. Not only has financial aid from federal, state, county and city programs dried up, but the need in the Silicon Valley has grown.
“We’re also seeing people on our food lines who are the recent tech layoffs. So, some people’s first time in need, which is very scary for them. It’s hard to walk in the door or get in the car and come over,” said Bernard. “We’re also seeing that people who tried to dig out during COVID and were helped still need help because they haven’t recovered, and the rents are still so high here.”
According to Bernard, SCS served nearly 11,000 individuals this past year with one or more services. What’s more, 1,400 families visit the facilities each week to pick up food – a 25% increase over last year.