Friday night's FIND Food Bank Telethon raised more than a half a million dollars to help local families in need of food assistance, latest tallies show.
This marked the tenth year the News Channel 3 station group and FIND Food Bank have teamed up to bring meals to children, seniors, and families throughout the greater Coachella Valley and beyond.
"It's a pretty amazing feeling the way that this community has really come together," said FIND's President and CEO, Debbie Espinosa.
This year, the telethon came during a time of great uncertainty for Coachella Valley. The concern over the spread of coronavirus has disrupted many aspects of daily life. Closures due to coronavirus precautions are having a serious impact on businesses and families throughout our area.
As the donation totals crested $530,000 Friday night, Espinosa thanked sponsors, agency partners, site location hosts, and people who helped FIND serve so many people."It's been an amazing night... this community really came through for each other." As of Monday, the total is at $551,370 and still counting!
The impact of the increased need was visible at a March 21 food distribution site. FIND assisted more than 400 families, but others were turned away that day. Those who were not able to receive food were directed to other distribution sites.
For weeks, FIND has seen an increased demand for services due to the impact of the coronavirus. FIND says they feed about 90,000 per month, but with the impact of coronavirus, they are estimating they will be helping more than 100,000 each month.
"We have been receiving many, many phone calls from people whose hours have been cut significantly and days have been cut significantly at work, which is translating into 'we need help with food,’” said Debbie Espinosa, President & CEO of FIND Food Bank.
Many businesses and individuals depend on the dollars coming in during this usually busy season to get them through the slower summer months. With major events canceled and tourism already down, Espinosa says, “We're very concerned that because they don't have the savings to make it through the summertime, the lines will continue to increase."
Find a food distribution site near you. Click here.
Another impact of coronavirus precautions is the loss of volunteers. Espinosa told News Channel 3 that the organization has lost more than seventy percent of its volunteer workforce.
The California National Guard stepped in to help with the loss of volunteers and the critical need for distribution.
Twenty-five guardswomen and men are now assigned to assist in packing, loading, and delivering food with FIND.
Also this year, FIND and News Channel 3 are updating the production of the telethon in response to concern over coronavirus. Usually, the event is held in the FIND warehouse in Indio. The warehouse is bustling with volunteers throughout the night. Many are sorting and packing food to help their neighbors in need. Upstairs in the facility, a call center is set up. Volunteers including local leaders, business owners, and others, gather in a busy phone bank area, ready to accept phone donations. However, News Channel 3 and FIND remain committed to finding safer ways to share the telethon with the entire community.
You can find more information here: http://www.findfoodbank.org/annual-telethon-2020/
Donations are still welcome. You can find a way to help or locate an upcoming food distribution site at http://www.findfoodbank.org/ .