Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 6:27 pm | Overcast 57º


From Its Home Base in Goleta, Direct Relief Makes a Difference Around the World

Local programs include a Thanksgiving Day packing event to provide basic items for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

[Noozhawk's note: First in a Noozhawk series on Direct Relief International, in partnership with the Hutton Parker Foundation.]

It may surprise some people that Direct Relief calls Goleta home, but recent recovery efforts for Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines has cast a spotlight not only on international aid but national and local support, too. 

For more than 20 years, the nonprofit organization's Personal Care Packs Program has provided Santa Barbara County homebound seniors, homeless families and migrant farm workers with basic care items in an effort to improve quality of life and health.

The program provides 6,000 of these basic needs packs, which are distributed through more than 30 social service agencies throughout the county.

Special annual packing events also include Thanksgiving Day, where volunteers gather to prepare packs benefiting a specific need or toward a recent disaster. This year, from 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday at the Direct Relief warehouse, at 27 S. La Patera Lane in Goleta, the Santa Barbara community is invited to join Billy Baldwin in packing 2,000 family care packs — all of which will go to Typhoon Haiyan survivors in the Philippines.

“Direct Relief will have more than 200 volunteers making family care packs for the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan on Thanksgiving Day,” said Martha Angeles, Direct Relief's local programs manager. “The bags consist of personal hygiene supplies such as soap, combs, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and other items. Everybody needs basic items like shampoo and a comb to start their day. For people affected by the storm, these supplies will help them get back on their feet as they work to restore the homes and lives.”

Some of the volunteers are first-time participants, and all ages are welcome, while other volunteers have been assisting the organization for several years.

Jennifer Jones shared why her family chooses to return each year.

“My kids and I really enjoy the hands-on ability to help locally and internationally. It's a fun and very impactful way to make a difference in the lives of people who need the supplies so generously donated to and by Direct Relief,” Jones said. “The event is so well run that while it is hard work, it's great fun.”

In addition to the Thanksgiving Day event, personal care packs are also assembled twice a year — in August and December. This year’s holiday care packing event is planned for Dec. 5-6, and it is estimated that the packs from both packing days will help an estimated 22,000 people within Santa Barbara County.

During this holiday season of giving, another upcoming community event includes a dental kit packing day on #GivingTuesday, Dec. 3.

The concept behind #GivingTuesday is to establish a tradition of generosity where global charities, families, businesses, community centers, students and more to come together on a day once a year for giving back.

Since 1994, Direct Relief has supported the Healthy Smiles program, distributing 1,000 child dental kits and 3,400 family dental kits low-income families and coordinates dental day-clinics that treat up to 40 low-income children with dental disease per clinic.

“Health assessment surveys continue to place dental care among the greatest unmet health need in Santa Barbara County, especially among children,” said Damon Taugher, director of Direct Relief USA. “Direct Relief’s Healthy Smiles program partners with dozens of local agencies to deliver critically needed dental hygiene supplies to enable low-income kids and families — those most in need — to improve their dental health. Untreated cavities cause pain, dysfunction, school absences, difficulty concentrating and poor appearance — problems that greatly affect a child’s quality of life and ability to succeed.“

Direct Relief is the only nonprofit organization licensed to distribute pharmaceutical medications in all 50 states, providing medicine and supplies through a network of 1,100 nonprofit clinic and health center partners that supports more than 10,000 clinical sites. A Replenishment Program also enables clinics to receive and provide pharmaceuticals on a consistent basis from a single source.

These comprehensive services are provided regardless of the ability to pay to more than 20 million people through an online ordering platform, the Direct Relief Network. Targeted assistance helps safety net providers prepare for and respond to emergencies, with cash, equipment, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies throughout the country, particularly in rural areas and poor cities.

The spirit of giving was summed up in the thoughts of a volunteer who will be at the Direct Relief warehouse on Thanksgiving morning.

“Volunteering is such a great way for people to learn to be nice, respectful and helpful, and it teaches us to be good people inside and out,” Jones said. “There's no minimum age where we can help each other out in the world.”

For more information on all of these events or to sign up, call 805.964.4767 or email Martha Angeles at [email protected].

Click here for more information on Direct Relief, or click here to make an online donation. Follow @DirectRelief on Twitter for the latest updates on its emergency response in the Philippines.

Noozhawk contributing writer Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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