Delhi Unified, United Way providing ongoing support to community
A partnership has been developed between the Delhi Unified School District and United Way of Merced County that is seeing the dire needs of students and their families met through multiple fronts.
When Dr. Cristian Miley, Delhi High School principal, visited some of his students’ homes, what he saw was troubling. And he reported this to Adolfo Melara, district superintendent, which set into motion an ongoing program of philanthropy.
When the 2020-2021 school year started, Dr. Miley came to realize there was a “significant food insecurity” among low-income needy families and that triggered outreach to supply food items.
“I think it’s a phenomenal endeavor, our partnership with United Way. Dr. Miley told me about some very dire, gut-wrenching circumstances. Through United Way, we were able to put Omni Cart debit cards in the hands of about 25 families and we started a campaign to do outreach in fringe areas of town,” Melara said.
The opening target was to provide 25 Omni Cart cards of $250 each to needy families and that has continued for more than three months. Melara and Miley are hoping to see the program continue.
Dr. Miley said a lot of wonderful connections have been made through this program. The “Dollars for Delhi” campaign was launched. Receipts of expenditures were collected from needy families and given back to United Way.
“It’s very emotional to see the outright gratitude of these families in helping them get by. A lot of folks were literally on their last dollar. Some were homeless or living out of their cars,” Miley said. “Without this program how are people going to get through this moment?”
Robert Hypes, community impact manager for United Way, said it’s been a great relationship with Delhi. In August and September, United Way also gave $15,000 grants to Delhi, Ballico-Cressey and Planada school districts to provide direct support for students, including large-screen television screens for learning programs.
Another facet of the Delhi outreach involves food distribution facilitated by Dr. Steven Roussos, a professor at the University of California, Merced. Twenty-pound food boxes were given to needy families containing meat, cheese, eggs and vegetables. Dr. Roussos is involved in UC Merced community research and service projects.
Dr. Roussos said the Community Initiatives for Collective Impact, which involves UC Merced students, has come up with an additional program – placement of refrigerators through the community where needy families can get the foodstuffs they need.
“Our refrigerator program started in September. We now have a refrigerator at Delhi High School with a second one to come. We go to farmer’s markets, grocery stories, flea markets and local gardens for the food items. The refrigerators are open all hours and it’s easy and accessible. The food disappears quickly,” Roussos said.
But he is heartened to report the refrigerators are quickly restocked from a number of community sources.
Citrus, lettuce, lemons, grapefruit, avocados, mangoes, and potatoes are among the items available in the community refrigerators.
“They are pretty consistently stocked. It’s incredible how people are dropping off the vegetables and the people are appreciating it. This is likely going to grow and we hope to have another one in Planada. Extra refrigerators are being donated and we are glad to set them up,” Roussos said.
Dr. Miley said there is a genuine sense of altruism in Delhi. He said there are some areas of Delhi that many people may not be aware of, where things are very desperate. It’s poverty exacerbated with the coronavirus.
Dr. Miley said they are trying to develop connections with students and their families and it’s special to go out to the people needing help.
Melara said he is very thankful to United Way for keeping Delhi in mind.
“I am proud of our staff and Dr. Miley for reaching out and being able to help these families even more. I am thankful to the school board for supporting this work. We want to help find ways to partner with United Way,” Melara said.
Dr. Roussos said UC Merced’s Bobcat Eats and the People’s Garden also have been involved in the food distribution efforts. This helps avoid food waste. He said 10 to 12 visits a day are being made to the refrigerators; they are getting emptied out but quickly refilled, too.
Roussos said it’s been a fun undertaking and more volunteers are always needed. If interested, call (209) 769-3231.