Farm Fresh Produce with CalFresh

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In collaboration with Sacramento International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) New Roots Farm, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) provides weekly farm fresh produce to individuals and families who use CalFresh at a discounted rate.

New Roots Farm is a five-acre plot in West Sacramento and is farmed by resettled refugees.

“SFBFS chose to partner with New Roots Farm for several reasons. First off, they have a variety of produce that is familiar to the many different populations we serve. Secondly, SFBFS is further fulfilling its mission by empowering financial independence as the farm is divided into smaller plots cultivated by recently resettled refugees,” commented SFBFS’ Produce for All CSA Coordinator, Kelsey Maher.

With the help of a government grant, SFBFS is able to purchase the produce at market price, but offer a discounted rate to clients. Customers purchase about $20 worth of produce with $9 from the benefits on their CalFresh cards.

In addition to a diverse selection of produce, there is an educational component. Every week, the produce is accompanied by a newsletter listing the vegetables, an advice column about cooking or building a pantry and several recipes. Each week, there are seven to ten different kinds of fruits and vegetables included in the bag.

“We’ve noticed that some people are comfortable using kale in the kitchen, while others are more familiar with eggplant or daikon radish. We hope to create a space where people can more easily share their favorite recipes in the near future,” says Kelsey.

At this time, SFBFS distributes the produce bags at its two different campuses on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. -  4 p.m. If you are interested in purchasing a produce bag with your food stamps on your CalFresh card or looking for the latest news about the project, you can sign up for the next distribution at the Produce for All page.

If you have any questions or feedback about the produce bags, you can contact Kelsey Maher, kmaher@sacramentofoodbank.org.

SFBFS Staff Spotlight - Shay Smith

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Every month on the blog, we highlight an SFBFS staff member to give you a peek inside SFBFS’ operations and the people who make the organization run!

This month’s featured staff member is Shay Smith, Technology Education Manager:

1. What’s your favorite thing about working at SFBFS?

The look on folks’ faces when I talk about what we do.

2. What does a typical workday at SFBFS look like for you?

Saving the world one resume at a time...with some forgotten passwords in between.

3. What inspires you in supporting the SFBFS mission and culture?

To me, education is a foundation that spans across time, culture and religion. I now understand why a hand up is more than a hand-out. The inspiration is the mission in that helping the stranger is our culture.

4. What is your favorite pastime?

Spending time with my family #teamfleming.

5. What is your favorite fruit or veggie and why?

Strawberries because I was born in February!

Help Your Kids Be Thankful This Season

Help Your Kids Be Thankful This Season

This is the time of year we can cozy up with our loved ones and reflect on just how lucky we are. But sometimes with all the planning and obligations that go into Thanksgiving, we have to remind ourselves to take time to be grateful.

It’s important to set this example for our children and encourage them to be thankful for all that we have, while teaching them to be empathetic for those without. Many kids aren’t as fortunate as yours, this year alone, 13 million children face hunger. Helping your family understand the reality of hunger – and how to help – is the perfect gateway to a more thankful and giving Thanksgiving.

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SFBFS Staff Spotlight - Ken Smith

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Every month on the blog, we highlight an SFBFS staff member to give you a peek inside SFBFS’ operations and the people who make the organization run!

This month’s featured staff member is Ken Smith, Transportation Manager:

1. What’s your favorite thing about working at SFBFS?

The people who work here who believe in the “what, why and how”, of what we do. And, I think we all really try to make SFBFS a place where you want to come to work every day. I have described the environment as, relaxed focused energy. A light saber in the hands of a Jedi.

2. What does a typical workday at SFBFS look like for you?

A typical workday is being a part of my favorite thing at SFBFS; working with my team, partnering with other departments and leaders. And in everything we do, keeping a focus on how is this going to help us in our mission. I lead an incredible team in the Transportation Department at Food Bank Services. Professionals who believe in that “what, why and how”. Our daily objective is to safely and efficiently move our food donations from donors to Food Bank Services and to partner agencies. We work closely with our partners in Operations, Food Resources, and Agency Relations every day. And together, we make it happen and have a great time doing it. Even when it is really…really tough to get done.  

3. What inspires you in supporting the SFBFS mission and culture?

I’m inspired by the way we as an organization and team members, really do live out our mission in our daily work. Everything we do truly has an impact on our mission. And it is really great to see it happen in person. To see how our work touches someone’s life.

4. What is your favorite pastime?

Pretty much anything with my wife. Even shopping; seriously, I have liked clothes and shoe shopping with her for as long as I can remember. We have a group of really close friends we always enjoy spending time with. I’m trying to play golf and really enjoy that now.

5. What is your favorite fruit or veggie and why?

 Fruit: Bananas or strawberries in ice cream. Because “almost” anything is good with ice cream.

Veggies: What is this “veggie” you speak of?  Not a big fan of the vegetable. But I’m starting to like roasted Brussels sprouts and some veggies wrapped in bacon. Because almost anything is good with bacon.

An Amazing Summer - One Intern's Perspective

Sahil Dayal was a CalFresh Outreach intern this past summer. Here at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), he gained invaluable experience, such as expanding his language skills and teaching clients how to apply for CalFresh and buy nutritious, fresh foods. Sahil is currently studying Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UC Davis. Here is a testimonial about his time as an intern at SFBFS:

My experience as a CalFresh Outreach intern was valuable and educational. I learned a lot working with the CalFresh Outreach team at the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. The three most valuable things that I have attained are customer service experience, public speaking skills, and collaborative work experience.

I have gained customer service experience via application assistance in office. I had the opportunity to undertake clients’ appointments by helping them fill-out the CalFresh application. I have also scheduled appointments for our clients that made online and/or paper inquiries. 

Also, I have increased my public speaking skills. I conveyed the information of CalFresh to our clients at our Produce for All’s, supermarket outreach, and other events (i.e. National Night Out). I can speak and understand 2 ½ languages; English and Hindi (Fluent); Spanish (Partially Fluent). Some of our clients did not speak English; I used my other languages to provide them with information as best as I could. My public speaking skills not just increased via English, but also the other two languages.

My collaborative work experience has also increased. I worked with other CalFresh Outreach interns and they were helpful in getting most of my projects done effectively. For example, Kai Hara collaborated with me on coming up with ideas to spread CalFresh Awareness. I also enjoyed working with other CalFresh team members; Griselda, Anna, Ray, Lorena, and most importantly Erika. Griselda helped me practice my Spanish speaking skills. Ray gave me pointers on how to approach individuals at small outreach events, (i.e. WalMart). Lorena kept me on my feet to ensure that I completed my task effectively and on time. Erika was an awesome person to work with because she clearly explained my tasks, gave good directions, and gave me positive feedback that I could improve on. It was an honor and privilege to work with such a powerful and collaborative team that helps those in need.

Other important things that I have gained via my internship are cultural competency in food assistance and advocating individuals in need to practice self-sufficiency. It is hard to convey information to the underserved community, especially those who are homeless, and in need of emergency food. Via my CalFresh Outreach team, I have increased my cultural competency in food assistance by understandings who are these people that are in need (demographics, race/ethnicity, social-class status, family life, life tragedies/successes). It is really important to know what kind of people we are serving. Hopefully in the future, I will use my cultural competency skills that I have attained now in the practice of health and medicine. Another important skill that I have gained is how to advocate for someone in need about self-sufficiency. Personally, it is hard for me to practice self-sufficiency, let alone me advocating somebody else about it. In the duration of working in the CalFresh Outreach Department, I have learned a lot about food insecurity, shortages, and crises. Keeping these in mind, I advocated for my clients to apply for CalFresh and use their benefits to practice self-sufficiency while buying their day-to-day meals. My approach was to not buy non-nutritional food such as chips, soda, and SOFA type food (High Sugar, and Fat food). I told them to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and other meat and dairy products. This way, they would not waste their EBT benefits on junk food and save their funds on buying healthy and hearty foods.

One of the things I would add for our future CalFresh Outreach interns is giving them opportunities to create projects and presentations to present CalFresh information in conventions centers, city halls, local schools, clinics, and religious places (i.e. churches, temples). This will help them achieve intense cultural competency and advocacy skills for the future. Another thing that I would add for our future interns is doing research on how underserved communities can be eliminated and in the near future how they can go from underserved communities to served communities.

Thank you SFBFS for giving me this exciting and motivating opportunity to broaden my horizons via CalFresh Outreach Internship. Special thanks to Erika; you are an amazing individual.

Best regards,

Sahil Dayal

SFBFS Staff Spotlight - Tony Schneider

SFBFS Staff Spotlight - Tony Schneider

Every month on the blog, we highlight an SFBFS staff member to give you a peek inside SFBFS’ operations and the people who make the organization run!

This month’s featured staff member is Anthony (Tony) Schneider, Volunteer Services Coordinator:

  1. What’s your favorite thing about working at SFBFS? This one is easy! I love the shared culture among co-workers. Once a day, it is guaranteed that at least one co-worker will make me laugh or bring a smile to my face and once a day it is guaranteed that I will try my hardest to do the same for at least one co-worker. If you can’t smile, what can you do? Working for a non-profit, in a city that relies so heavily on their services, can be stressful at times and I believe if it wasn’t for the little things each day, a joke, a laugh, or water jug talk, that my job would not be as enjoyable as it is.
  2. What does a typical workday at SFBFS look like for you? I arrive every morning at 7:57 a.m. and immediately make a full pot of coffee, because my priorities are straight. My morning, after coffee, consists of making sure the staff, who work directly with volunteers, are aware and ready for the days scheduled activities. Whether the activities are in warehouse 1 with Ross, or warehouse 3 with Jason, or both, I always stop by to check on activities for volunteers and where there is the most need. I then plop down at the desk and respond to individual and group volunteer inquiries along with updating availability for the weeks/months ahead and work on special projects. Currently, I am working on a few projects including an Action Plan for SFBFS Service Enterprise Certification and a presentation for SFBFS’ 2nd annual Partner Agency Conference regarding Volunteer Services. I usually give at least one tour a day as well, I love tours because there is so much that individuals do not know about SFBFS and it is awesome when they learn something new and take it with them when they leave to inform others who may not know.
  3. What inspires you in supporting the SFBFS mission and culture? The support from staff, but more so the support from the people in Sacramento. Over 10,000 individuals visited Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services last year as volunteers. That number is CRAZY! The support from the local community is what makes the clock tick for me each day at work and reminds me of how loving and caring humans can be.
  4. What is your favorite pastime? Obviously, the Green Bay Packers, but that is not so much a pastime as it is a lifestyle given my upbringing in the great city of Green Bay. However, on my days off, and occasionally during the week, I enjoy spending time in a golf cart with 15 TaylorMade clubs and good company on any number of golf courses in the Sacramento area. Along with becoming frustrated on the links a few times a week, I also love to watch and follow the PGA Tour and other sports throughout the year. Avid golf fans, my picks for each week are as follows: Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker and Bubba Watson.
  5. What is your favorite fruit or veggie and why? My favorite fruit is chicken wings and my favorite vegetable is pizza. In all seriousness, my favorite fruit is grapes because of their versatility. You can eat them plain, in yogurt, on a PB&J sandwich, etc… etc… My favorite vegetable has to be banana peppers; they are like candy to the pallet. Yum! Yum! Yum!
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SFBFS Staff Spotlight - Sandra

Every month on the blog, we highlight an Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services staff member to give you a peek inside our operations and the people who make the organization run! 

This month’s featured staff member is Sandra Yahya, Warehouse & Inventory Manager

  1. What’s your favorite thing about working at SFBFS? Helping people in need!
  2. What does a typical workday at SFBFS look like for you? Working and collaborating with SFBFS departments and staff as well as managing the Food Bank Services warehouse and inventory.
  3. What inspires you in supporting the SFBFS mission and culture? Having the satisfaction of helping and supporting people in need and guiding them to achieve their financial independence.
  4. What is your favorite pastime? I love spending quality time with family and friends as well as traveling.
  5. What is your favorite fruit or veggie and why? Strawberries, bananas, potatoes, Swiss chard, cauliflower… I like the majority of fruit and vegetables!

    Visitng SSIP

    ssip produce

    Monday mornings usually bring to-do lists longer than you’d like, so I happily changed up my Monday morning routine and started off the week with a visit to one of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ (SFBFS) Partner Agencies.

    SSIP (South Sacramento Interfaith Partnership) Food Closet is a collaboration of 14 local organizations committed to serving the needs of hungry individuals throughout a ten zip code area of South Sacramento. SSIP operates out of a 1,400 square foot facility at Bethany Presbyterian Church, but volunteers, donations and support comes from the entire partnership including Centennial United Methodist, Chinese Community Church, Faith Presbyterian, Florin United Methodist, Fruitridge Christian Church, Hope United Methodist Church, Lutheran Church of the Master, Oak Park United Methodist, Parkside Community UCC, Prince of Peace, Sacramento Japanese United Methodist, Saint Anthony Catholic and Wesley United Methodist.

    ssip volunteer

    Individuals and families may visit SSIP Food Closet once per month during normal operating hours of Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Food items include bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, deli items, grains and miscellaneous items. SSIP picks up donations at their neighborhood Bel Air and Trader Joes, purchases items from local stores and also receives items from SFBFS. Volunteers pick up these donations seven days per week!

    Three part-time staff members oversee the operation and their passion and enthusiasm are palpable. Kindness, patience and encouragement shine through. Their corps of volunteers work diligently and Monday’s crew was no exception. After a quick gathering to review key points for the day and celebrate last month’s impact (they fed 4,963 neighbors in June!), the group shared a blessing and then quickly got to work bagging fresh peppers and artichokes, sorting baguettes, repackaging eggs and hauling bags of onions.

    ssip reception

    Coordinator Lori Sugar proudly toured me around the campus, greeting and welcoming each guest and showing off their creative Community Food Basket, which is a shopping cart where clients can leave items they do not want and other may pick up items their family would enjoy. Lori also beamed while showing off their newly installed refrigerators and freezers, which they received through a grant from SFBFS. Her passion for helping others and the dedication of the fellow staff and volunteers made this a great start to my week.

    To learn more about SSIP Food Closet or get involved, please visit their Web site.

    Submitted by Kelly Siefkin, VP of Communications & Marketing

     

    Diane

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    For the past 15 months, I've volunteered at the Food Bank campus.You can find me in the reception office with my mentor, Cary Howitson, every Friday. I have got to tell you, I look forward to Fridays for so many reasons, not the least being that Cary is an inspiration to work with.

    It is personally fulfilling helping people discover all the fantastic services that Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) offers. Most call to locate food distributors and are more thankful to find out that you can also sign up for adult education, parenting and computer classes. I also let them know that we help with resumes, finding employment opportunities and much more.

    We have terrific staff and volunteers who can help them sign up for CalFresh, distribute fresh produce, and host nutrition classes.

    Everyone I've met while volunteering at SFBFS makes me feel better about people in general. Come on by and say hi!

    Mrs. Flores

    Mrs. Flores was working but wasn’t earning enough to meet her family’s needs.  Since her husband lost his job, Mrs. Flores struggled every month to cover basic expenses. Talking with Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services’ (SFBFS) staff at a CalFresh outreach event opened the door to hope for her. 

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    The SFBFS team members explained how CalFresh could help supplement the family’s income while her husband tried to find work.  She applied and was thrilled to tell a CalFresh staff member who called later that she was now getting CalFresh benefits.

    “Receiving CalFresh is like a miracle for me at this time of my life,” Mrs. Flores said.

    Submitted by: Lorena Carranza

    Ms. Brown

    Sometimes the first step to providing CalFresh benefits is delivering up-to-date information about the program. Ms. Brown, a single senior struggling with food costs, had been turned down for food stamp assistance many years ago because she receives Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Fortunately, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ (SFBFS) CalFresh Outreach team was available when she needed help and decided it was time to ask again about her eligibility. 

    A team member explained that the policy had changed and SSDI no longer disqualified her for CalFresh benefits.  After struggling with food costs for so long, this information was welcome news to Ms. Brown. With the assistance of the SFBFS’ CalFresh team, she promptly applied for CalFresh benefits. When the staff member called her later in the month, Ms. Brown said she was already shopping with her EBT card.

    “This makes it easier to get to the next pay day, knowing I have a little more to spend on other necessities,” she said.

    Submitted by: Lorena Carranza

    The Perez Family

    Mrs. Perez was afraid to apply for CalFresh benefits because she’d heard rumors that anyone receiving government assistance might be deported. While she didn’t want to ask a government official about the rumors, Mrs. Perez felt safe in speaking with a Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services’ (SFBFS) CalFresh Outreach team member at an outreach event. The SFBFS representative told her that there was no foundation for the rumor, which led her to apply for benefits.  

    With that assurance from the CalFresh outreach team, the Perez family now is receiving much needed CalFresh benefits.   There was no question that the family faced hardship in feeding their four children, even though Mr. Perez had a construction job. However, he didn’t work in rainy weather and the already tight family budget was becoming unmanageable.

    When a CalFresh team member called to see how her phone interview had gone with county CalFresh officials, Ms. Perez was in a good mood.  Shortly after the interview, she had received her EBT card. With CalFresh benefits, the Perez family now is better able to balance its budget.

    “For us is very important to pay our bills and rent on time (because) we don’t want to get kick out of our place, especially with four little kids,” Mrs. Perez said.

    Sarah

    For Sarah, CalFresh helped to make a college education possible. She was not only a community college student but also an important source of income for her family. She lived with her mother and younger sister in an apartment where her mother’s paycheck barely covered the rent and other basic expenses. Until this year, Sarah’s part-time work paid for their food.

    At the beginning of 2017, Sarah quit her job so she could take enough classes in order to transfer to a four-year college. Searching for a way to fill the income gap, Sarah found the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) online. She filled out an online CalFresh inquiry and received a call back from a CalFresh team member within an hour.

    The next day Sarah went to the SFBFS’ CalFresh office to apply for benefits. Her application was submitted that afternoon. Within two days Sarah and her family had their EBT card in hand and were ready for their first shopping trip.

    While Sarah plans to resume part-time work next semester, thanks to SFBFS’s online and in-person services, she’s found a way to help feed her family while taking needed classes. CalFresh gave Sarah the opportunity to put her education on track for a rewarding career and at the same time ensured her family didn’t go hungry.

    Submitted by: Lorena Carranza

    The Bopha Family

    The Bopha family reaped a bountiful harvest when they stopped by the CalFresh outreach table at the Galt Farmers Market. Ms. Bopha told the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) team that her husband recently had been laid off his seasonal job and she was getting desperate for a way to feed her family. 

    With four children she was grateful to learn about the SFBFS food-related programs, such as Produce for All that distributes fresh fruits and vegetables in communities without full-service grocery stores. When our staff informed her about the CalFresh program, Ms. Bopha realized that she had found a lifeline for the full range of groceries she needed to help get her family through their difficult time.

    With assistance from the CalFresh Outreach team, she completed and submitted a CalFresh application. Two weeks later Ms. Bopha told a SFBFS team member in a follow-up phone call that she was approved for CalFresh and expecting to receive her EBT card soon. For her the SFBFS’ CalFresh outreach program ensured that she’d be able to put food on the family’s table.

    Visit our CalFresh page for more information on your family's eligibility and to submit an appointment request.

    Submitted by: Lorena Carranza

    Five Things SFBFS Needs

    This time of year, SFBFS is blessed to have so many individuals give both their time and money to our organization. We often have people reach out to inquire about what our highest needs are. If you are interested in giving back this holiday season, please consider contributing in one of the following five ways:

    1.      Cash contributions – financial donations are our GREATEST need. Did you know SFBFS is not a government agency? Donations from individuals, families, companies, special events and grants keep our 15 programs and services going strong. Gifts of all sizes are appreciated. $12 feeds two families for four days! You can give online, by mail, by phone or in person.

    2.      Volunteers – SFBFS relies on the dedication of over 8,000 volunteers every year. The minimum age to volunteer is 10 and a volunteer orientation is offered every week! Sign up online at www.sacramentofoodbank.org to become a volunteer in one of our 15 programs and services. With a small program staff, SFBFS relies heavily on the generosity of volunteers in our community.

    3.      Diapers – In addition to serving food and clothing, SFBFS provides diapers to families in need. Our Parent Education program offers free workshops to new parents, who can earn valuable baby supplies such as diapers. Your generous donation of diapers helps out tremendously. An infant can use up to 10 diapers/day, which can add up quickly for a struggling family. Consider collecting and dropping off diapers at SFBFS.

    4.      Clothing – SFBFS provides free clothing items ranging from interview attire to back to school clothing all at no cost for families in need. All items come directly from the community and given to families at no cost. Do you have items of clothing you no longer want or need? Consider dropping them off at SFBFS or hosting a donation drive to collect at your place of work.

    5.      Your help spreading the word – If you know of a family in need, please have them visit www.sacramentofoodbank.org or call (916) 456-1980. Our reception team speaks Spanish and can point callers in the right direction. We can help a family find a food distribution in their community, invite them to an upcoming orientation to learn English or study for their GED. We can provide clothing and sign families up for CalFresh. SFBFS even offers low-cost immigration legal services. Please help spread the word about these wonderful services in the community. 

    Submitted by: Kelly Siefkin

    The American Dream

    The American dream; it was a driving force and what led Nematullah and his young family to the United States. That, coupled with the fact that he was forced out of his homeland of Afghanistan due to persecution.

    When Nematullah first arrived at the Sacramento airport with his wife, Khatera, and two young daughters, Hadia (meaning gift), age two and Zuhal (meaning Saturn planet), age four, he didn’t know what to expect. “I was worried no one would be there to greet us; we wouldn’t know where to go,” remembers Nematullah. “But Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) was there. A large group of smiling faces greeted us and gave me hope. I didn’t feel alone anymore.” After being escorted to his new place of residence, reality began to set in. “I felt a huge sense of culture shock,” describes Nematullah. “While I was being introduced to a variety of different services through SFBFS, I felt cut off from my family back home. It was hard. My daughters expressed their want to go back home, but I knew I had to press on and make a life here in Sacramento for my family.”

    After only two months of arriving in Sacramento, Nematullah began volunteering at SFBFS, the very organization that gave him and his family their new start in the US. “I had an overwhelming sense of needing to give back,” remembers Nematullah. Even though he himself was still new to the US and had many hurdles of his own to climb, Nematullah selflessly gave his time to help out in SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Services. “Nematullah was a huge help,” recalls Rocio, SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Manager. He helped connect clients with resources, notified them about free phone eligibility, helped guide them through social security applications and more.” A huge advantage? He spoke the language; many in fact. Nematullah speaks Dari, Pashto, Uzbek and Farsi; languages commonly spoken in both Afghanistan and Iran.

    All newly arriving refugees going through SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Services are required to participate in a 4-week long cultural orientation course. Nematullah was instrumental in supporting new refugees on their journey towards becoming US citizen. “I think it’s easier hearing it from someone who has been in your shoes and can speak to you in your native language,” explains Nematullah. “I just want to give these refugees the same opportunities that were so generously afforded to me and my family through SFBFS.”

    Now, almost two years after arriving in the US for the first time, Nematullah and his family can happily say that Sacramento is home. After volunteering with SFBFS for several months, Nematullah was offered a permanent position as SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Assistant. In his new role, Nematullah supports and tracks new refugee arrivals, attends airport pickups, approves and denies applications based on capacity and assists in apartment set ups with SFBFS’ volunteers and staff.  He also serves as a Case Manager for families with extended case management needs.

    Khatera and the children have also settled in nicely. Khatera enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses at SFBFS and his older girl is now attending school. While it may have taken baby steps to get where they are, it’s only the beginning. Nematullah has dreams to follow up on his education and pursue a Masters in Law while Khatera aspires to go to beauty school.

    What advice might Nematullah give to newly arriving refugee families? “Expect challenges, but never give up. It will take time, but don’t be discouraged. The American dream is alive and well.”

     Submitted by: Elise Hawkins

     

    Save Money on Upcoming Travel with CheapHotels.org and Help a Family in Need

    The holidays are here and many of us will be traveling to visit family and friends. Want to save money on your stay and help out a fellow family right here in Sacramento County?

    Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) has been selected as CheapHotels’ featured charity for the month of December! When you book your stay through CheapHotels.org this December, a portion of your purchase will be donated right back to SFBFS!

    By booking your next hotel stay with CheapHotels.org, you’re helping fight hunger right here in Sacramento. Thank you for your support. May you and your family have a wonderful and joyous holiday season together!

    A Refugee Story

    Hello, my name is Sayed. I am thirty years old and married to my wife, Makai with three adorable children.

    I worked for the US government in Afghanistan for eight good years under the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of State (DoS). My main duty for half of that period was to interpret for the security department, translate training materials for Afghan National Police (ANP) and help interpret in convoy run. I also assisted the Site Coordinators to run the support section by getting promoted to Maintenance Supervisor and later to Operation and Maintenance Manager. I served in a five-hundred man camp which later expanded to eight hundred.

     

    Life, as we see in the media is not so easy in the war-torn and traditional countries. I remember being shot at in the convoy runs and even experienced RPG attack and threats at our camp while we all were on duty.

    In mid-2012, we were laid off as DoD decided to shut down operations in our camp. The US decided to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014. We were all exposed to the mercy of Taliban revenge. I had two choices to make; stay back and accept the risks and or make an attempt to save my family. 

    Fortunately, my services and hard work paid off; the US government accepted our case and we selected California as our new home. We did go through and experienced a hard, risky long and stressful two year Visa process. But, we got lucky and now we are safe in our new home. However, many men and women who worked like me were not that lucky as some still undergo administrative processing in the Visa Program (SIV) and many have lost their lives waiting.  

    Upon our arrival in Sacramento we experienced the unexpected; a warm welcome and greeting by the smiley faces of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services' (SFBFS) crew. Our children were given gifts and toys. Our luggage was carried in the vans and we forgot the tiredness of an almost ten hour flight. We were immediately escorted and taken to our new apartment which we still live in. Yes I admit we were hungry, but our fridge was filled with food and fruits. 

    SFBFS had also arranged for us to have beds, furniture and even pots and pans; things a new family can't live without. In addition to, we were provided free transportation and given culture orientation classes. 

    US culture was not something I was new to due to almost a decade of work with Americans; but it sure was new to my wife and kids. Everything was amazing; kind people, good weather, great place!

    We were assisted in any way we could have possibly imagined by our assigned agency (SFBFS). They went out of their way to help us solve any problems we faced and not only for the 90 days which was required, but even now, almost two years since we moved in. My wife, my children and I won't forget this kindness. 

    We did our part and continue to do so. As soon as our legal documentations were processed, I attempted to find a job and I succeeded. I now work for a huge Tech Company and have been promoted twice during my first year. My wife takes English  as a Second Language classes and plans to continue her studies. Our children are going to school and we practice good citizen morals. Are we 100% self-sufficient now? No. Like many other citizens, we are not. We again thank  the US government and Sacramento County for standing by their core values and helping us achieve one hundred percent self-sufficiency.

    We dream the American dream. We now have a reliable car, a job and working to buy a house which will take countless effort.     

    Afghanistan is where I come from and know the culture. War is not what our culture allows and encourages. It has been enforced on us for almost four decades now. I even personally remember getting in trouble for learning the English language during the brutal Taliban regime when I was just a kid. Now, the world knows where the Taliban comes from and who backs them up. I do not need to explain but all I can say is that it is definitely not an Afghan ideology and culture. 

    I appreciate those who read, understand and care. 

    Thank you US government. Thank you Sacramento County. Thank You SFBFS. Thank you American people! 

     

     

     

    Open Hearts - Open Home

    There was little question once we heard of the plight of people around the world in desperate need of refuge, safety, and most urgently- temporary housing upon arrival to Sacramento.  Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ Refugee Resettlement Services’ Parish Liaison, Candace – spoke briefly after mass about the need for emergency housing for refugees while the agency located affordable apartments.  She inquired if parishioners could assist in some way; maybe they had an empty apartment which could be utilized or furniture folks wanted to donate or a bit of time to volunteer a few hours a week.  During her talk, my teenage son, Carlos, who was sitting beside me in the pew looked my way and gave a slight nod and seconds after, my husband turned his head and lifted his eyebrows. This call for help resonated with us, given my own story of being a political refugee and my memory of a family who offered to house us temporarily.  My son prompted us to ensure we were committed to following through. After mass, we walked to the back of the church, and submitted our name; however, our vision was not to offer volunteer hours, although this too is very needed, but rather our home.  We connected with the Refugee Resettlement Manager, Rocio, who quickly mobilized to provide us information. Before we knew it, we set an appointment for a visit to evaluate our home and the space we could offer for emergency housing.  We have a small in law quarters with a full bath but no kitchen. That was not a barrier. We would share our kitchen in our house and open our home and hearts to a family in need. 

    A few days later, we found ourselves at a local live scan agency getting our background checks.  Our sons were running around helping to transform the back house from their teen cave to a family living space. We reached out to friends who graciously offered to provide items needed, not just for their arrival but things they would need to furnish an apartment.  We received confirmation that the family would be arriving in a few days.  Their home country was Iran but they were on refugee status in Turkey for 3 years, awaiting approval to arrive in the US as the vetting system is very rigorous.  We anxiously awaited their arrival.  The day and time had come; the family was on their way from the airport and would soon be approaching our street.  We ran outside and waited on the sidewalk, all the while, vigilantly checking the time.  The car finally approached, stopped and parallel parked in front of our home.  In a few moments, Mary (we will call her) opened the car door, slowly turned her body to get out of the car, lifted her head and glanced our way with the humblest and gentlest eyes.  She came out of the car and immediately extended her arms.  She approached me with such a sincere embrace, kissed me on both checks and said with an accent and loving, soft tone, “Thank you so much.”  I was so taken by her and her husband’s depth of gratitude, that I immediately teared up.  At that moment, we realized the incredible connection we have as human beings, that we are given this incredible gift called empathy and compassion- a gift which quickly transcends barriers. 

    After the introductions, we showed our family around the house and helped them settle in. Their case worker, translator, friend and our family sat around discussing their 30-day plan. We were overwhelmed with emotion as we learned about the journey ahead of them. This family had just arrived from across the world with a few possessions to their name. They will have to quickly readjust to another culture and life, learn English, find housing, secure a job, develop a different skill if their license or vocation does not apply in the US and more than likely encounter discrimination… but they were so thankful.  They only focused on the opportunities, “When can we sign up for English classes? Is there employment assistance? How quickly can one find a job? Is there affordable apartments so we do not burden the Ramirez family?” They were so motivated, so solution focused, so resilient and so great full.

    During our short time together, we showed them the Capitol, walked around the Farm to Folk festival and took them shopping for some necessities. We even gardened together in the back yard on a sunny afternoon.  We communicated and shared stories through lots of funny gestures and the help of our iPhone Farsi /English translator.  We were reminded that as people, we have so much more in common than differences. We share similar dreams, hopes, fears, losses; regardless of where we are born, what religion we are and the language we speak.  We shared several meals together- listening to music, talking and laughing as we tried to communicate. There was one meal however, which was different.  As we ate, there was an instance when we all strangely and simultaneously stopped talking and eating, and found ourselves silent.  We glanced at one another and our eyes swelled up with tears. There was a moment of intense connection, our hearts filled with emotion as we felt a profound sense of understanding and empathy for one another.  We felt their pain, loss and fear and they too felt our emotions which had surfaced during that moment.  It is a reminder how sitting with others and breaking bread, does bring us together- we are sharing life.  This honor and experience confirms that we have an intrinsic need and responsibility to not stand on the side lines watching the plight of others, to not fear those we do not yet know.  That putting our thoughts, words and faith into action has such a high return on investment- emotionally, spiritually and socially.  It takes more energy to contemplate our desire to help than actually doing it.  Trust me, we are so much better off because of it!  The day “our” family left, we were saddened! They had touched us so deeply.  As we parted, they said, with assistance from the Farsi translator, “We have no way to pay you for your kindness and generosity, but we promise that one day, we will help someone the way you helped us.” It is beautiful testament about how kindness and compassion promotes more kindness and compassion!   

    Three days later, I received this text which I will leave unedited, “Hi carol how are you? Sorry if I didn’t call because you know we can’t talk english. thank you for everything you did and your family did for us. we never will forget! we will contact you when our english is better. Your family are always in our heart.”  This message brought us all to tears once more… Maybe you have room in your heart or home to help change lives…yours and someone else’s!

    Submitted by: Carol, Raul, Carlos, Elias and Andres Ramirez