Photo courtesy of Stacy Yogi, Executive Director, State and Federal Programs for Capistrano Unified School District.

CUSD partners with Families Forward to provide Thanksgiving meals to families

By Cathi Douglas

After months of pandemic isolation, Stacy Yogi and Margarita Vivas found it especially gratifying to provide Thanksgiving food baskets this year, including gift cards for turkeys, to local families.

For the sixth year, Capistrano Unified School District partnered with Irvine-based Families Forward to provide 149 families with food for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Yogi, the District’s Executive Director of State and Federal Programs, and Vivas, Bilingual Special Programs Liaison, coordinated volunteers to assist the families at a drive-through distribution event at the District Office on November 18. They worked with Amanda Bravo, Operations Manager at Families Forward, to coordinate the event.

“During this time of the pandemic when people might not be as connected as in the past, we’re really happy to be able to have this event to connect with our community,” Yogi says. “Sometimes people just need to know that others care. Giving any time is a way to connect people so that we feel like a community – it is important now to feel like we’re all in this together.”

Photo courtesy of Stacy Yogi, Executive Director, State and Federal Programs for Capistrano Unified School District.

Vivas acknowledges that most of us are fortunate to be able to share a bountiful meal with friends and family at the holidays.

“Everyone should have that chance,” she notes. “It’s good to give thanks for what we have and to share it with others.”

Yogi says over 3,000 families in the district are identified at homeless. The families receiving Thanksgiving food this year were referred by the school site Bilingual Community Liaisons.

In the past, volunteers put the baskets together at the event, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic Families Forward provided the food baskets already assembled, which were filled with vegetables, boxes of stuffing mix, canned broth, and many other items, she says.

“We see them drive up in their cars and they are very grateful to the District,” she notes. “They feel that the District and the community care. To us as a District and a community, it’s important to extend that feeling.”

Vivas shared that during the month of December, all 149 families will receive holiday gifts from Families Forward’s adopt-a-family program.

Vivas explains that the District also partners with Families Forward to provide back-to-school backpacks for students at the beginning of the school year.

“We’re grateful to be their partner,” she says. “It allows us to be a real resource to provide these wonderful programs for our families.”

Yogi adds that Education and Support Services team members Carmen Ortega, Nina Savlov, Angela Olvera, Patricia Effenberger, and Alicia Cabrera were helpful in making the event successful.

“We are so grateful to them for supporting our families.”

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