There is no need to feel panic Local nonprofit organization LA Cares is here to help anyone in a lurch

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By Kirsten Laskey

When money gets tight or when the food shelves get a little bare sometimes a nervous unease ensues.  However, you don’t need to panic about what needs to be cut from household budget or what edible meal can be concocted from the remains of food in the fridge. Rest assured that the community will not leave you in a lurch. LA Cares is here to help.

LA Cares, a nonprofit organization, serves the community in two ways. It offers a monthly food box distribution and helps out in emergency situations such as if utilities will be switched off.

Both services have been in high demand. Last year, LA Cares Secretary Linda Burns said, 1,145 boxes of food were handed out along with approximately 15 emergency food boxes.

LA Cares Treasurer  June Gladney said the food is received from the Food Depot in Santa Fe along with donations from the National Association Letter Carriers-Branch 4112 food drive, Curves for Women, local churches, play groups and other community organizations.

The community plays an essential role in LA Cares. In fact, Gladney said, without the community’s support, “we couldn’t function.”

People are welcome to make a donation any time. To do so, call LA Cares at 661-8015. There is no drop-off location, but LA Cares will pick up the food or arrange a meeting place. Food is stored in a space donated by TRK Management, Inc.

The food is then distributed each month at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church.

A generic food box includes soup, canned fruit and vegetables, pasta, a tomato product, canned meat, toilet paper, 100 percent fruit juice and a nutritious cereal.

If people in need of additional food, during the food distributions, a table is set out to offer baking supplies, bread, school snacks and sometime fresh produce.

For the holidays, LA Cares tries to offer everyone a ham or turkey.

Burns said the boxes offer supplemental food.  Recipients couldn’t live off a box of food for an entire month but it will help replace anything that is missing in the kitchen pantry.

The size of the box depends on the size of a family. Burns said they try to tailor the boxes to fit the families.

Additionally, unique needs such as having diabetes or food allergies are also considered when the boxes are put together.

The other part of LA Care’s mission is to offer financial help. Last year, Gladney said, LA Cares assisted 28 families with preventing their utilities from being shut off. Additionally, 16 families received financial help to pay their rent or give a deposit for low-income housing.

“Basically our mission is to help those in danger of becoming homeless or at risk,” Gladney said.

To help with the efforts, $24,583 was donated to LA Cares last year, which is less than what was received in 2008 – $31,266.

 The money raised last year, however, just about covered all the organization’s expenditures, which totaled $25,273.

The LA Cares board does not seem to be quivering over money. Just as LA Cares serves the community, the community helps LA Cares. Burns commented that when LA Cares needs the money, it comes.

Gladney added, “People are just very generous.”

The Ruby K’s Yum Run, which is held in the fall, is the sole fundraiser for LA Cares, but the Crop Walk in November also makes a donation to the organization.  

Besides financial help, Los Alamos supports LA Cares is other ways. For instance, it receives referrals from Self Help, Inc. and LA Cares collaborates with the county.

Community support is important, Gladney said, “because we couldn’t do without it. This is a community effort … and there ‘s no way we could do with that community support.” LA Cares has a board of eight people and recently welcomed a new president, Catherine Greeff. The previous president, Aaron Goldman, had served as board president since 1992.

Greeff started out as treasurer for the LA Cares board before serving as vice president.

Gladney and Burns praised Greeff, saying she is willing to play the devil’s advocate and asks the right questions.

“She’s always there when I needed help,” Burns said.

With a new face as board president, LA Cares is hoping to get other people involved in the organization and on the board.

“It’s way to give back to the community,” Gladney said. “The mission is very important and you’re part of something bigger than the board.”

From boxing food for the distributions to updating the bylaws, there is plenty to do.

Call LA Cares for more information.