By Theresa Walker / Orange County Register
Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG
Rescue Mission, United Way and OneOC manage donations and volunteers to help those in need.
Inside the warehouse that Orange County Rescue Mission maintains at its Village of Hope campus in Tustin, a special place is set aside for one purpose: to stockpile and distribute personal care items donated to help babies and adults affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s key to the “things” part of a three-pronged outreach effort by the county to help people during the coronavirus epidemic. Other elements include money and, eventually, volunteering.
In late March, the Orange County Emergency Operations Center designated the Rescue Mission operation as the drop-off spot for new and unopened boxes of key items — things like baby and adult diapers, wipes, feminine pads, adult nutrition drinks and protein bars, baby formula, and gift cards for groceries.
The shelves aren’t bulging, yet. But county officials and Jim Palmer, president of the Rescue Mission, expect that to change as word spreads among businesses, corporations, and the faith-based community. For now, all are seen as the best sources for donations because individuals are being told to stay home and not congregate, even to give items to the needy.
Word about the county’s collection site is getting out.
In addition to email and social media blasts, it got a mention during the county’s COVID-19 news conference on Thursday, April 2. Also mentioned: a campaign by Orange County United Way to raise monetary donations through a “Pandemic Relief Fund,” and in OneOC’s online Emergency Volunteer Center effort to sign up volunteers for safe deployment to various coronavirus relief projects.
“We’ve received many questions from individuals, from communities, from organizations asking one question: ‘How can I help?’,” said Debra Baetz, director of the County of Orange Social Services Agency.
“There are a lot of ways.”
As of Thursday, April 2, there were 108 names on OneOC’s disaster-relief volunteer list. Volunteer opportunities include virtual outreach and hands-on projects undertaken with proper COVID-19 precautions — social distancing of 6 feet or more among participants and personal protective measures to prevent close contact, according to the OneOC website.