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It may be better to give than to receive during the holiday season, but one can only give so much in limited space. That fact prompted the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS) to open a new, larger location for its SOVA Community Food Resource Program in West Hollywood.
The new JFS/SOVA Food Pantry, located at 1140 N. La Brea Avenue, replaces its old location on Beverly Boulevard near Fairfax Avenue. The new building is more than double the size and will allow the JFS to field the increased demand for their services.
“The other space was very small,” said Margaret Avineri, a senior executive with JFS. “It could not accommodate the numbers we were getting.”
The new food pantry opened just in time for the holiday season. It served 11,697 clients in November, a 16 percent increase from October and 80 percent increase from November 2009. It was also an all-time record for any of the three JFS/SOVA Food Pantry locations in the Los Angeles area.
There were 2,089 new clients who registered with the JFS/SOVA Food Pantry in November and more than 1,600 households received special Thanksgiving meals. The demand for the pantry’s services promises to increase with Christmas approaching.
“We feel like we will be matching November,” Avineri said. “It’s a very busy time and there is no sign the demand is waning.”
The pantry added days and hours of operation during the holidays to absorb the expected increase in people seeking food.
Clients of the JFS/SOVA Food Pantry can drop in and order groceries from a selection of donated canned and packaged foods, bakery products and produce. They are provided with a four-day supply of groceries and hygiene products for each family member.
“It’s like they are going to the supermarket,” Avineri said. “It takes longer but they get exactly what they want.”
While the JFS/SOVA Food Pantry is a non-profit organization, there was plenty of room in the budget to move to the new, larger location.
“The operational costs of all three locations are covered by donations from a number of sources,” said David Gershwin, spokesman for the JFS.
Donations come from community members and corporate donors. Fundraising events also provide the JFS with the budget necessary to run the three pantry locations.
Gershwin would not elaborate on the actual operational costs, but said that shutting down the old location and shifting resources allowed for the move to La Brea Avenue.
The new location has space for more than just food services. There are also many offices where JFS/SOVA counselors can meet with clients and provide social services like vocational services, food stamps, and Medi-Cal assistance.
“People usually have to go straight to Medi-Cal to get the service,” Avineri said. “But our clients can come to the new offices and get assistance there.”
The JFS/SOVA Food Pantry operates with a committed team of volunteers, who take the orders from clients and get them the items they require.
“Our volunteers don’t just drop by occasionally,” Avineri said. “They are incredibly devoted.”
Sheila Spiwak has volunteered at the pantry for two years. She recently became a board member of JFS and works the check-in desk at the new location on Tuesdays. She also registers clients and provides them with food and is thrilled about the increased space.
“It’s so pretty,” Spiwak said. “The extra room is also great so we can accommodate a lot more people in need.”
Spiwak also noticed an increase in large families and young people registering with the JFS/SOVA Food Pantry.
“It’s just heartbreaking to see people who are my children’s age walk in,” Spiwak said. “But knowing we are there to help them gives me a good feeling.”
The registration process to become a client of the JFS/SOVA Food Pantry is simple. Registration is done on a walk-in basis requiring only a form of identification. For more information, call (818)988-7682 or visit www.jfsla.org/sova.
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