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By Thomas J. Sullivan–
The Sylvan Old Auburn Road (SOAR) Neighborhood Association earned second place in the category of multi-neighborhood partnerships at the 44th Annual Neighborhoods, USA (NUSA) Conference held earlier this spring in Palm Springs.
NUSA is a national, nonprofit organization committed to building and strengthening neighborhood organizations.
The Neighborhood of the Year Award recognizes exceptional accomplishments by neighborhood organizations throughout the country. Judging for the Neighborhood of the Year award is competitively based on the extent of innovation, grassroots participation and capacity building exhibited by the nominated organization, said Jayna Karpinski-Costa, SOAR president.
SOAR was cited by NUSA for its collaboration with Sacramento County’s Meals-On-Wheels (MOW) program administered by the Asian Community Center (ACC), and its partnership with the Citrus Heights Lions Club to provide shelf-stable groceries and non-edible “goodies” to home-bound seniors in Citrus Heights last Christmas.
“It’s a great honor for our association, and all who came together in support of our application for this honor,” she said. “It’s a very competitive application process.”
Sylvan Old Auburn Road Neighborhood Association (SOAR) is named for the two streets that meet and form the Association’s west and north boundaries and is incorporated in California as a nonprofit corporation. SOAR meets monthly and receives updates about activities in the neighborhood and the city.
“We identified the most vulnerable and needy in our SOAR community; we set a participation limit of 24 households. Accompanied by a MOW caseworker, we personally delivered the groceries and other gifts and brought much needed yuletide cheer to our homebound seniors,” Karpinski-Costa said.
“We have many seniors living in our SOAR community. Many of our seniors are home-bound, ‘aging in place,’” she said. “There are some who cannot access the basics of life, have no family to care for them and have limited access to in-home care services.”
Many also depend on Meals on Wheels which provides meals to approximately 260 clients in Citrus Heights, delivering a single meal a day, five per week.
“We found that there are many who cannot access food or lack the ability to prepare their meals. Some have limited transportation; some have housing challenges. But all are vulnerable, and our neighborhood wanted to help if we could,” she said.
“Our holiday project gave us the opportunity to lessen the burdens of aging and, at the same time, deliver food and cheer along the way,” she said.
Karpinski-Costa said Meals on Wheels was enthusiastic about SOAR’s holiday delivery proposal.
“SOAR realized that to provide what was needed we had to include another partner to assist with the project and the Citrus Heights Lions Club was equally passionate about the project and volunteered to help handle the ‘non-food’ donations,” she said.
Working in a joint partnership with Meals on Wheels and the Lions Club, SOAR members were able to serve 24 households in their district with at least two large bags of groceries and one huge Christmas stocking full of much appreciated holiday cheer. Homes which had pets and more than one person living in the household were also included.
The approximate cost of the project was calculated at $100 per 25 households or $2,500 with donations received from SOAR members and the community to make up the remaining balance.
“SOAR was willing to absorb the cost — whatever it was — to make the project work. We have monies in the bank from our fundraisers that would cover all our expenses. Additionally, the city gives funds through a competitive grant process and we had asked for and were awarded $600,” she said.
A Meals on Wheels dietician also provided SOAR and Lions Club members with helpful guidelines for the types of groceries which would be most needed.
“We sent out the list of suggested food items and requested that food be donated in multiples of 6, 12, 24 items – so the bags were more or less uniform in size and contents,” she said.
Basic needs were breakfast items (oatmeal, cream of wheat, jelly and jam, crackers), lunch (cans of soup, ramen, Chef Boyardee varieties, spaghetti, tomato sauce, canned veggies, peanut butter, etc.), dinners (microwavable Complete Meals, etc), snacks (pudding, Jello, canned fruit, etc.) and miscellaneous (tea, honey packets, juices, sugar free candies and fresh tangerines.
One SOAR member donated 27 warm afghan blankets, she said. The Lions Club also solicited donations from their members and received donations from local business,” she added.
Members of the Citrus Heights Lions Club assembled their donations in 27 large Christmas stockings. The stockings included flashlights, socks, gloves, lap blankets, jar openers, and toiletries. Each person received a lap blanket, beside the afghan, magnifying sheets for reading, and a 2019 calendar for those who might need one.
The SOAR president, dressed in a Santa suit and equipped with a tambourine of Christmas bells, helped make the holiday deliveries.
SOAR is one of ten neighborhood associations in the city. Most of the homes were built in the 1950s and 60s, when Citrus Heights saw its major growth as the former McClellan Air Force Base and Aerojet expanded their operations. It includes about 2,200 single-family homes, many rental duplexes, about 1,200 apartment units, one senior mobile home park, one high school, five churches and many assorted small businesses.
Anyone who lives, owns property, attends school or has a business within the neighborhood boundaries is automatically a member of SOAR; there are no membership dues. Approximately 8,700 residents (65% renters) live within the boundaries of SOAR.
“It’s not the sort of project that requires each person to play a direct role. But that’s what our neighborhood is about. This project was all about coming together for a cause. Clearly, the project gave people a way to complete their Christmas giving and do it in a way that directly helped our senior community – and the most vulnerable part of it.”
“We’re looking forward to doing it again,” Karpinski-Costa said.
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