A program of Community Action Partnership of Orange County, the Orange County Food Bank distributes 19 million pounds of food annually, serving 900,000 people directly. It also provides food and personal-care items to more than 400 other helping organizations including churches, shelters, and senior centers. At the food bank's warehouse, volunteers receive and package 23,000 boxes of food each month, which its clients can pick up at 50 sites across the county.
In 1990, Jerri Rosen and five friends gathered clothing and accessories to give to survivors of domestic violence at an event they called “Day of Self-Esteem.” Rosen and company weren’t prepared for the outpouring of appreciation and the degree to which their single act of kindness would affect the lives of both clients and volunteers. Seeing that there was a true need for professional clothing among women seeking employment, the group went on to serve 67 clients in that first year alone—and Working Wardrobes was born. Eventually, the organization widened its scope to include men and began offering job-placement services and career training programs.
Today, Working Wardrobes helps more than 5,000 clients enter the workforce each year. Men and women facing any sort of challenge—alcohol and substance abuse, homelessness, the transition from military to civilian life—can turn to the organization for help. At the 16,500-square-foot facility in Costa Mesa, they’ll find trained personal shoppers as well as regular career training workshops. The long list of awards the group has won includes the 1998 Bank of America Award for Vision in Philanthropy and the 2008 Making a Difference for Women Award from Soroptimist International of Huntington Beach.
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Orange County native Garry Brown wanted his sons to be able to catch barracuda from the piers and dig for clams along the beach, the way he had as a child. With that in mind, he founded Orange County Coastkeeper in 1999, following the example of the nationwide movement to conserve and protect local rivers, lakes, and shorelines. Orange County Coastkeeper aims to restore the region's bodies of water to health so that they can better serve residents as recreational areas and protect aquatic life. It organizes cleanups, advocates for conservation through public policy, and works to reduce pollution with the help of citizen volunteers. Recently, Orange County Coastkeeper has restored the kelp and eelgrass beds off the coast and in Newport Bay, and is improving its public gardens to raise awareness about environmental issues.
Two survivors of domestic abuse founded Women Helping Women/Men2Work (WHW) in 1993 following their own experience rebuilding their professional wardrobes on tight incomes. Though they began collecting clothes in a trunk for women in shelters, the organization’s reach has grown rapidly. Since its inception, WHW has helped more than 30,000 men, women, and teenagers become economically self-sufficient through employment services. Staff members work with underserved individuals to help them develop their resumés, practice interviewing techniques, and search for job leads. They prepare participants for a work environment with professional attire and body-language training. Participants also can take part in workforce-development workshops, where they learn about networking, negotiations, and multimedia skills to help them become competitive in the job market.
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