“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”– Dr. Maya Angelou
Like Maya Angelou, we believe the human spirit can overcome extreme obstacles and still shine within. As an organization, Empower Yolo’s mission is to promote safe, healthy, and resilient communities. The people of Empower Yolo—our staff, board of directors, and volunteers—are all committed to brightening the lives of community members, including those in crisis, with purpose, respect and appreciation of their strengths while honoring their cultural practices and traditions.
Throughout the past year, Empower Yolo has been steadfast and here for our clients and the community, a lighthouse remaining strong and present during the pandemic. “Empower Yolo has been a light of hope for the community, because most of the county’s services moved from in-person to online,” says Lina Hernandez, Empower Yolo Case Manager/Site Coordinator, Knights Landing Resource Center. “I have seen clients come from West Sacramento, Woodland and Yolo to get in-person services. Clients commented on how grateful they felt with the resource center for helping them in-person. Some were unable to navigate their technology to do zoom calls, so in-person help was something they heavily relied on,” says Hernandez.
Empower Yolo continues to be a “light of hope” in the community as it serves clients at a high rate moving through the COVID-19 pandemic. Each day, staff at Empower Yolo’s Dowling Center, 2 shelters, and resource centers in Davis and Knights Landing offer a network of services and resources to survivors of abuse, families in need, low-income residents, homeless, seniors, farmworkers, and immigrant clients regardless of status.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, vulnerable populations have not only struggled to stay healthy from the coronavirus, but they also endured hardships such as loss of jobs/reduced hours, and the inability to provide basic necessities such as food and clothing. As we move through the pandemic, these needs still exist, but are compounded with other issues such as paying past and current rent and utilities, applying for unemployment and disability benefits, and finding employment.
In Knights Landing clients are applying for those benefits and the pandemic EBT card which provides food benefits to help families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals through the federal School Breakfast or National School Lunch Program. The resource center answers many work related pandemic questions for clients, provides peer counseling and weekly food distribution. “I went from serving 25-30 clients a week to 75 clients each week,” says Hernandez. The resource center also serves as a COVID testing site and helps clients make appointments for vaccines.
Similar to the Knights Landing resource center, Empower Yolo’s Davis resource center continues to support many residents with weekly food distribution through its Eat Well Yolo program in partnership with the Yolo Food Bank. Clients continue to reach out for help with paying rent and utilities. Empower Yolo is a community partner in the state’s CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Program to help renters and landlords with unpaid rent. Both the landlord and tenant have to apply. For questions about this program, or to make an appointment for application assistance call the main office at (530) 661-6336.
“We have been providing a lot of pandemic relief services for residents,” says JiaJia Zhao, Empower Yolo Case Manager/Site Coordinator, Davis Resource Center. “Empower Yolo has been open and helping victims, low-income residents, since the pandemic started. Clients can easily reach out to us by phone or email for assistance and quick responses. Our staff has been working hard and voluntarily taking on more responsibilities to help provide clients with additional services and resources as we move through the pandemic,” says Zhao
The Davis Resource center has been actively providing case management services for 65 Chinese seniors. “I have been consistently communicating with and providing individual advocacy services at least twice/month for all of these seniors,” says Zhao. Most of these seniors have no family support.
Many clients need administrative help with completing applications, or help with navigating technology. “We have helped many clients verify their identities for unemployment insurance. ID.me requires people to provide two forms of identification and take a selfie scan to prove their identity. Most of the agricultural workers here do not have smart phones to take pictures to verify their identities or email addresses,” says Hernandez. Advocates assist clients with applications and verify their identities by mail or fax, which is time consuming. Hernandez recalls migrant workers waiting several months with no income for their unemployment benefits to come in. “It was helpful to have a Migrant Seasonal Farmworkers Representative from the Employment Development Department (EDD) represent clients even if it was only by phone to connect with the EDD office. Without this support workers would get locked out of their accounts, which delayed the process. It has been difficult for some clients to navigate technology,” says Hernandez.
Advocates from both resource centers highlight the importance of being there for clients in person. “I can’t stress enough the importance of having the resource center open during the pandemic, for clients here in the Knights Landing community even for something as simple as making copies or printing documents to complete applications. It may seem small, but services here are essential and needed so clients don’t have drive to Woodland,” says Hernandez.
The community can help Empower Yolo continue to be a lighthouse of hope by supporting us on May 6 for the Big Day of Giving, a 24-hour online campaign to help Empower Yolo and hundreds of other non-profits in the region. We are excited to announce that we have $17,500 in matching funds thanks to several generous donors. A special thank you to Susan Starkweather Stone, Pam Marrone and Mick Rogers, Nugget Market, 2 anonymous donors, and Dan Parrish Insurance Foundation (Dan & Nancy Parrish, long-time residents of Woodland). We appreciate your generosity and support! Double the impact of your donation for the clients we serve. For more information and to support Empower Yolo any time through May 6 visit: https://www.bigdayofgiving.org/organization/empoweryolo.
Resource centers also need volunteers to assist with outreach. Advocates are requesting additional resources for families in Knights Landing, and the need to connect with county representatives to help them understand that Knights Landing is an important community in Yolo County that needs more support. Local youth need summer activities in order for them to be healthy and resilient. Most of the parents in Knights Landing work during the summer and their children are home with nothing to do.
In Davis donations for homeless clients are needed such as new underwear; $5 gift cards for a sandwich, or voucher for a hot meal; quick and easy meals/snacks; small bottles of water; small hand sanitizers for clients to take; paper towels; and tissue. Together, with your support Empower Yolo can continue to be a “light of hope” brightening lives in our community.