LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - December 11, 2013) - Donating to families in need is very common during the holidays but one organization is taking a different approach to traditional toy drives and gift giveaways. The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission is providing free shopping vouchers to more than 100 poor and homeless families so parents can purchase gifts for their children at its first-ever Holiday Gift Store Extravaganza.
The holiday season evokes feelings of joy and anticipation of family celebrations. Yet for many, this time of year is a stark reminder of limited resources and hard times. Unemployment, high housing costs and reductions in federal resources have resulted in thousands of families experiencing homelessness in our community.
Designed to resemble the holiday shopping experience Americans enjoy at major retailers, the Rescue Mission's one-day Holiday Gift Store will be festively decorated and offer a variety of toys, gift cards and games for qualified shoppers to choose from.
For 16-year-old Tony DePesa, this year is especially meaningful because for the first time in his life he is enjoying the gift of his own room in a new apartment.
Tony doesn't fit the typical stereotype of someone who lives in a car and begs for food. He's young, well dressed, groomed, bright-eyed and full of energy. But after his dad lost his job because of disabilities, they lost their home and lived in motels for weeks until finally coming to the Rescue Mission.
"Being homeless is scary. At first, I didn't want help. I thought I could do it myself but after coming to the Rescue Mission, I realized everyone needs help," said Tony.
After living in the shelter for more than a year Tony went from being a failing student to an AP honors student who dreams of majoring in business at an Ivy League college and starting his own clothing line.
According to Tony, the Rescue Mission gave him hope. "They taught me how to take ownership of my life and introduced me to someone who inspired me to dream about opening my own business one day. I want to encourage other homeless kids to hope and dream about the future because homelessness is not forever."
"It's amazing to see this young kid who has been through some of the most heart-wrenching situations look at life as a gift to be lived to the fullest," said San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission Director Wade Trimmer. "Tony wants to encourage homeless families and help them work hard to change their current situation. The best chance we have to do this is by giving the gifts of dignity and empowerment this holiday."
The Holiday Gift Store Extravaganzawill feature gift-wrapping services, shopper assistants and cashiers as well as free childcare so parents can shop while kids enjoy holiday-themed activities, crafts and treats. The invitation-only event is happening on Saturday, December 21, 2013.
"Donating and delivering holiday gifts to children in need is a wonderful way to provide cheer to poor and homeless families. Although these efforts have good intentions, it often strips parents of dignity as donating organizations become the heroes when distributing gifts to kids -- as opposed to parents," said Trimmer. "Through the Holiday Gift Store, we can restore a parent's sense of self-respect by giving them the ability to make their children's holiday extra bright."
Los Angeles has consistently ranked among the top cities with one of the highest homeless populations inclusive of veterans, men, women, children and families. This is evident in an L.A. neighborhood known as the San Fernando Valley, where the number of families on a waiting list for emergency shelter is approximately 30 per night.
In response to a growing homeless population, the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission offers homeless families physical and emotional support, as well as needed resources, case management and training to help better their position in life.
The Rescue Mission has also embarked on a new capital campaign to build a 90-bed "Home Again" family shelter in Northridge, California, which will provide private family sleeping quarters, a commercial kitchen, common dining room, living spaces, meeting rooms, computer education center, playground and garden. Additionally, it will serve as administrative offices for homeless services offered throughout the Valley.
San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission
13422 Saticoy Street
North Hollywood, CA 91605
Office: (818) 785-4476
About the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission
Established in an effort to serve the homeless in the greater San Fernando Valley, the roots of the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission grow deep, span over 40 years and were established as an outreach ministry of the Rescue Mission Alliance -- a Christian based non-profit organization. In 2002, the Mission launched the Family Shelter program in a collaborative effort with San Fernando Valley area churches in response to the critical unmet need for year round emergency shelter. The program is designed to provide homeless men, women, children and families an opportunity, not only to obtain food, shelter and basic life necessities, but also a foundation for individual and family restoration by developing a personalized plan based on their needs for achieving personal growth, employment, and housing.
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