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San Clemente Journal

34th Annual Hunger Walk in San Clemente on Oct. 17

Community comes out to support Family Assistance Ministries Annual Hunger Walk.

If it were up to them, Family Assistance Ministries (FAM) wouldn’t mind if they weren’t needed so much anymore. 

The faith-based nonprofit charity in San Clemente would be happy to serve fewer of the tens of thousands of clients they annually serve. But they know that’s not the case. They are serving the folks who are in need of help because they don’t have enough to eat or enough for rent, or they don’t have a steady job or a reliable car.  They know the need will continue and likely worsen, especially as the pandemic continues.

And that need includes FAM itself in regard to its own fundraising efforts to help keep its operations going throughout its service area, which encompasses the southern part of the county.

“People believe because we’re in affluent Orange County that the need doesn’t exist,” said Irene McKeown, a member of FAM’s board of directors. “But, unfortunately, it does. One in five children are hungry in the county. That shouldn't be.”

It was the close friendship between McKeown and Diana Lyon, a friend she knew from Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Newport Beach that helped bridge support for FAM and their upcoming 34th Annual Hunger Walk in San Clemente on Oct. 17.  Lyon just happens to be a UnitedHealthcare representative who serves on the company’s employee volunteer committee that looks for non-profit opportunities to provide support for worthwhile causes and organizations. Irene shared FAM’s mission over a cup of coffee after Sunday mass and the need for assistance. And, their two goals matched up.  

“UnitedHealthcare’s mission is to help people live healthier lives,” Lyon said, “FAM is a perfect fit because it is helping people have food and shelter and access to things they need to live.”

Last year, FAM provided 5 million pounds of food to the hungry, disbursed $6 million in government-funded rental assistance and furnished more than half a million dollars in transportation assistance such as car repairs and gas vouchers. The service support also included assistance with business licenses, work uniforms and shoes.

In addition to the extensive food service program, the organization runs two homeless shelters, financial and tax counseling and other personal assistance efforts in partnership with local hospitals and social service agencies.

According to FAM officials, the approach with clients is one of understanding and empathy — that they are folks who have tried and failed, perhaps repeatedly, and that all they may need is a hand up so they can return to self-sufficiency. This is particularly true for those experiencing homelessness.

UnitedHealthcare’s support will help provide the seed money to help sponsor the Hunger Walk, which is to be a hybrid event that will feature in-person as well as virtual participation. In addition to individual contributions, FAM is relying on local corporate sponsors to help pay the way.  Officials credit companies like UnitedHealthcare that can serve both as a valuable partner that provides not only monetary support but also assistance from employees who serve as community volunteers.

The job of FAM, according to Mary Gray-Perdue, FAM’s chief development officer, is simply to help people who are down and out or who have been impacted, economically or otherwise, by COVID-19. “We tell them you can do this, you’ve got this,” she said. “This isn’t your life story. There is going to be next week and next month and next year. And we’re going to come alongside.”

“There are so many wonderful organizations out there,” said Gray-Perdue. “We are honored that UnitedHealthcare would pick FAM to partner with for the Hunger Walk.  And the fact that they chose us — we’re delighted.”

FAM’s 34th Annual Hunger Walk on Sunday, Oct. 17 is a 2.5-mile stroll starts at 2 p.m. on Del Mar Street at the community center and follows a course that includes a picturesque blufftop view of the pier.

Please join our team, United Strong! to walk virtually or in person!   Sign up at www.FAMHungerWalk.org

For more information, call 949-492-8477 or visit https://www.family-assistance.org/

 

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