Community

CSA honors 'Hometown Heroes,' offers update on fight against poverty


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Community Services Agency Executive Director Tom Myers, right, introduces CSA staff members during the Sept. 20 “Hometown Heroes” event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

Community Services Agency leaders added two more individuals and a group to their stable of “Hometown Heroes” during their 32nd annual breakfast fundraiser Sept. 20 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

CSA, which has helped the area’s underserved for more than 60 years, honored Julia Karr of Google Inc., the Rev. Brian Leong of Lord’s Grace Church in Mountain View and the Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild.

The three recipients have contributed significantly to CSA’s mission.

Karr has served as a Google “ambassador” by helping plan CSA’s 60th anniversary celebration and starting a young professionals group aimed at spreading awareness and addressing local poverty.

Leong is an active participant on CSA’s Alpha Omega Task Force, which seeks solutions for homelessness. He helped launch the Lots of Love pilot program at two local churches to help people living in their vehicles find a safe place to park at night.

Lisa Molaro and Irene Jenkins represented the Orchard Valley Ceramic Arts Guild, which has been creating and donating hundreds of ceramic bowls over the past 27 years for the agency’s annual Empty Bowls Soup Supper fundraiser.

Fighting poverty a team effort

CSA Executive Director Tom Myers began the proceedings by noting that the number of clients his agency serves has grown by 40 percent – from approximately 6,000 five years ago to more than 10,000 today.

“That number has grown because the need has grown,” he said. “The gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing, and nowhere is this more acute than right here in Silicon Valley. … As long as we have an affordable-housing crisis, we will have more and more people falling into poverty, and that’s part of the reason CSA’s services are more in need now than ever before.”

As part of CSA’s ongoing strategic plan, Myers noted an effort to take services to clients out in the community as opposed to people visiting the agency’s Stierlin Road headquarters. For example, CSA set up food pantries at schools in lower-income neighborhoods, and the agency employs an outreach case manager to meet with people living in their vehicles.

But an overriding message at the event shared by Myers and the event’s keynote speaker, the Rev. Kathi McShane of Los Altos United Methodist Church, was that addressing the problem of poverty is going to take a team effort.

“No one agency can do this work alone,” Myers said.

McShane cited the construction of a commercial kitchen and expanded services for the homeless at Trinity United Methodist Church as an example of one such successful partnership. Trinity’s Hope’s Corner program includes support from Los Altos United Methodist Church, the County of Santa Clara, the city of Mountain View and Google Inc.

She cited another example of church members supporting a refugee family from Guatemala – they helped the family get their children into school while bringing family members to CSA for food, housing and dental services.

McShane said all parts of a community, from social services agencies to hospitals, local governments and the corporate world, need to be involved “if we are going to make this community all what we all want it to be – a place of safety and opportunity, kindness – welcome to people no matter what their level of income or education or age or nationality or employment.”

Leong credited CSA with getting him and his church involved 10 years ago in addressing the homeless problem through the Alpha Omega Task Force. For him, it was a matter of finding a role and filling it.

“The more people in the community have a role, the more they have a part to play in making our community better, the less they have to complain, the less time they have to write comments online,” he said. “People need to see there are ways to become part of something bigger than themselves. It’s our responsibility to create pathways for them – so let’s do it.”

For more information on CSA, call 968-0836 or visit csacares.org.

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