By Collin Breaux and Shawn Raymundo

As coronavirus concerns sweep South Orange County and the world, various agencies and businesses have stepped up to offer assistance.

Family Assistance Ministries (FAM) announced in a press release they will “continue but adapt” their daily food, shelter and personal supportive services to South Orange County families and individuals in need.

“We are dedicated to responsibly serving our community,” FAM CEO Elizabeth Andrade said in a press release. The agency is “balancing the tension between our mission to serve our community and the reality of the threat to our organization.”

FAM has experienced an increase in requests for rental and utility assistance needs and started to hear concern from clients, as employers have reduced hours or closed for the next two weeks.

FAM’s thousands of clients include seniors and the health-compromised, food-insecure and unsheltered populations vulnerable to coronavirus.

The nonprofit maintains its San Clemente-based resource center, emergency family shelter, transitional shelter, permanent supportive housing, resale shop, as well as three satellite support centers in San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and Laguna Niguel.

FAM has instituted the following procedures to minimize personal contact, including adapting regular office hours at the San Clemente office, now 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Monday through Friday, as long as possible; asking clients to call their main line at 949.492.8477 to pre-order for drive-up food services; and temporarily suspending food supply distribution to the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

Several upcoming FAM events have been postponed or canceled, including Second Saturday food distribution and the annual Easter Brunch and Egg Hunt.

In the coming weeks as protocols and policies change, Andrade said the agency “will continue to communicate with clients, volunteers, staff and partners regarding our updates to programs and precautionary steps.”

Visit the agency’s website at family-assistance.org for more information.

Capistrano Unified School District said in a news story through its news outlet, CUSD Insider, it is serving lunches and breakfasts to local children during a three-week school closure.

CUSD Food Service Worker Jenny Willett hands out free curbside school lunches as cars line up at Hidden Hills Elementary. Photo: Courtesy of CUSD/Steven Georges/Cornerstone Communications

“On the first day Capistrano Unified provided free lunches – more than 1,000 children were served at four school sites. That’s more than double the number of children that pick up free lunches during the summer meal program,” the CUSD Insider story said. “Starting Wednesday, March 18, the district will provide a breakfast bar or cereal cup with fruit and milk for the child to enjoy the following morning. Because of the emergency school closure and the reschedule of Spring Break, employees have been volunteering to come to work and help make lunches for the children. The district is closed an additional two weeks from March 23 to April 3, 2020 in response to COVID-19 concerns.”

Acknowledging that many may be feeling anxious or fearful over the disruption and upending of daily activities, the Orange County Health Care Agency is encouraging the community to reach out to its Behavioral Health Information & Referrals line at 855.625.4657.

The line is meant to help connect individuals to any of the agency’s Behavioral Health Services.

And to help small businesses throughout California that have suffered “substantial economic injury” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Small Business Administration on Monday announced that it will be offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital.

“SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist California small businesses with federal disaster loans,” SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said in a press release. “We will be swift in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).”

Carranza explained that the loans could be used to help pay fixed debts, payroll and accounts payable, among other bills the businesses are unable to pay right now. And eligibility, according to the SBA, is based on financial impact.

“Disaster loans can provide vital economic assistance to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing,” Carranza said in the release.

Local residents in San Clemente are looking to aid the elderly, as several members of the San Clemente Life Facebook page have said they’re willing to gather any food and medicine the community’s senior citizens may need during this isolation period.

Valari Armstrong, a San Clemente resident, told San Clemente Times this week that those elderly citizens who are currently quarantined should feel free to reach out to her so she can coordinate with others in the Facebook group to pick up supplies.

“Both my parents passed away, and I would want someone to help them if they were still alive and I weren’t available,” she said, later adding: “I’m healthy, I’m working from home, so I can certainly take time to go grocery shopping, pick, up medicine and leave it on their front porch.” Armstrong can be reached by email at valari.armstrong@yahoo.com.

SR_1Shawn Raymundo
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.

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