Linda Ertel shares a third and final blog post of thoughts and photos on the early days of Tosa Cares. Read Parts 1 and 2 here!
As the years went on, Tosa Cares grew from an organization that served four families at
its beginning in 2008 to a large scale operation that distributed food to 120-140 families
on Saturday mornings with the help of 50 volunteers. Smaller numbers were served on
the Friday before and the Monday following the Saturday distribution. Clothing,
personal care and household items were added. Breakfast was served, and services such
as health and wellness checks, voter information, legal and other social services,
individual spiritual guidance and prayer were offered. By 2019, an average of 187
families were served per distribution.
Then came March of 2020…COVID hit. Everything closed down – but the needs of
families never stopped. How would families safely receive food with all the new
restrictions? Large distribution Saturdays were no longer possible. Like everything else,
Tosa Cares had to adjust. Closing down was not an option.
Contact was made with our Tosa Cares families through hundreds of phone calls and
mailed postcards. Appointments were made for each family for a food drive-up and pick
up. The community responded to the desperate need for food, clothing, and personal
care products. Contactless drop off times were created at churches, community places
and at Tosa Cares. Financial gifts were shared that allowed us to purchase needed
products. Generosity continued to fuel Tosa Cares and families were served in spite of
all the barriers the pandemic put in the way. Tosa Cares could and would not be
stopped! In 2020 – 186 families per distribution – and 1351 total family visits.
In 2021 – 230 families per distribution – 1843 total family visits. As the COVID numbers
were finally beginning to decrease, families continued to drive up to receive their food
boxes, and were invited inside the building to select clothing items and additional food
choices. In 2022 Tosa Cares served an average of 261 families per distribution: that’s an
amazing 2085 total family visits!
Today, Tosa Cares continues to meet the many needs of those they serve. Inflation and
lessening of food share amounts have increased the demand for assistance. Food boxes
are packed not only with non-perishable food, but also with fresh produce, meat, bread,
and toilet tissue. Diapers, feminine supplies, incontinence products, personal care items
like soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes and at times cleaning products and school supplies
are offered. Tosa Cares now occupies four entire rooms at Mount Zion Lutheran
Church! The number of families needing a helping hand continues to grow and the
community continues to respond.
Fall of 2022 has seemed like a reawakening of sorts – churches, schools and civic
organizations back doing product donations. Large scale events like Tosa Fest and the
Holiday Train came back to Tosa. More volunteers are coming to the pantry to help.
God is good. One thing the pandemic could not change: caring for one another still matters; and Tosa Cares is still at the heart of it.