In 2017, the homeless population in the city of Redlands was listed as the second highest in San Bernardino County. The Family Services Association of Redlands is an organization that aims to address this crisis by helping the food and housing insecure in the Redlands area. It offers free clothing and dinners on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and breakfast on Friday mornings. The program has been running for more than 120 years, and volunteers from the University of Redlands have taken over breakfast every Friday morning since last September after the program used up its grant and was unable to provide breakfast services. Family Services provided 138 families with 178 months of paid rent, moved 35 families out of homelessness, and gave out 1,236 motel vouchers in 2018.
Amy Moff Hudec is the Associate Director of Community Service Learning at the U of R and has volunteered with the organization nearly every Friday since the school adopted the Friday breakfast program. Moff Hudec is involved with many student groups on campus but says volunteering with Family Services is one of her favorites. She enjoys being a part of the program because it enables her to talk to the homeless in Redlands and hear their stories. She knows many of them by name.
“We spend a lot of our time talking about homelessness and how to fix it, but we don’t often spend a lot of time talking to the homeless,” Moff Hudec said.
She prides herself on being able to interact and connect with the homeless in Redlands, and to see the issue from their point of view.
During the school year, students from the University of Redlands often help out with the Friday morning meals, but over the summer break, select faculty members have made it their responsibility to volunteer their time in order to help keep the program running. This summer, Chief of Staff and General Secretary to President Kuncl Michelle Rogers, VP for External Affairs Char Burgess, and Director of Alumni and Community Relations Shelli Stockton helped with the breakfast service. Head Swimming and Diving Coach Leslie Whittemore and Natural Sciences Librarian Les Canterbury volunteered on several occasions as well. Moff Hudec emphasized the contribution staff members have made for the organization over the past year. She says students are a huge part of it, but faculty also deserves recognition.
Samantha Vasquez, a sophomore at The University of Redlands and student ambassador for the Family Services Association, offers a student’s perspective on giving back to the Redlands community. She started volunteering last year as a freshman on the very first Friday breakfast. She went nearly every Friday after that, and when the previous two student ambassadors left in the Spring of this year, she took over the position. Vasquez has many responsibilities as student ambassador, including emailing volunteers, dealing with waivers, and driving the van to and from the location. She doesn’t seem to mind though, saying she loves seeing progress being made.
Vasquez has noticed patterns in the people coming to breakfast each week. She says many of them are, “older gentlemen” or teenage boys who have dealt with poverty or homelessness for a majority of their lives. She thinks that programs like Family Services may be able to help the growing number of food and housing insecure because it can change the mentality of the people it helps and encourages them to make positive changes in their lives. At home in Coachella Valley, Vasquez also plans to work summers at a program similar to the one here in Redlands because she loves the volunteer work so much.
University of Redlands is looking to expand the student volunteer program to another day of the week, so new volunteers are always welcome. On days when students or faculty don’t take over, the organization only has two to three of its own volunteers running the whole process of preparing, cooking, and cleaning. Moff Hudec says that the university aims to bring between seven and ten volunteers per week in order to help lighten the load. Teams and clubs can also take over any day. The cross-country team, for example, recently provided breakfast on a Wednesday, which was both a volunteering and team bonding opportunity. Students and staff can also volunteer individually through Family Services, but Moff Hudec recommends reaching out to her office to avoid going through the sign-up process.
It’s clear Vasquez and Moff Hudec love their work, the people they work with, and the opportunity to do good in their communities. They are the kind of people who can put others first and they are both helping make a positive impact in the Redlands Community.
For more information, contact Amy Moff-Hudec at Amy_Moff-Hudec@Redlands.edu or Samantha Vasquez at Samantha_Vasquez@Redlands.edu.
[hr gap=””] Illustration by Ariel Cook.