The Family Service Association fights poverty and promotes health in the Inland Empire – Press Enterprise

The Family Service Association was founded by the Junior League and local faith-based organizations in the town of Riverside. In the early 1950s, these groups came together to help struggling military families.

Today, the association continues to fight poverty, hunger and health, serving community members from infancy through adulthood in underserved communities.

According to executive director Cheryl-Marie Hansberger, many program participants work hard but struggle to get by on low wages, fixed incomes and California’s high cost of living. Through early education, trauma-informed mental health services, senior housing, homebound support, safe seniors/community centers and nutritious meals for elderly residents, the association serves over 13,000 community members each year.

“There are many challenges in life, and we know that overcoming them is much easier when you are surrounded by trustworthy community members who have you or your family’s best interests in mind” , said Hansberger.

Volunteer Eshana Naveed is seen at a Family Service Association food distribution event. (Courtesy of the Family Services Association)

The Family Service Association has maintained its services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, although it has seen an increase in demand. Its Child Development Centers continued to provide child care services to frontline workers and families who need affordable child care options. The centers served more than 1,200 children last year.

The association also works with community partners through its HOPE Collaborative to prevent child abuse and neglect in Riverside County.

The organization experienced its highest demand yet in the past year for senior nutrition. It provided more than 8,600 elderly residents with meals at 27 sites in the Inland Empire. In addition, the association distributed 10,000 pieces of personal protective equipment throughout the region.

The organization’s services often help struggling families get the helping hand they need to succeed, Hansberger said. A client who had two children at child development centers said her children had met their family service association teachers in the shops, years after leaving the programs, and were delighted to see them.

The client found employment with a home builder with a program to donate funds to a charity chosen by each new employee. The client chose the association and called to express her gratitude for the support she received at a critical time in her life.

“We love to see her family flourish and are so grateful that she is always looking for ways to stay connected with the FSA community,” Hansberger said.

Recently, the association received a grant from the Gabbert Justice Donor Advised Fund via the Inland Empire Community Foundation. It depends on grants received from government agencies to support many of its programs. However, as the minimum wage has increased year on year, these grants have largely failed to provide salary increases for staff. Food costs, a major part of the organization’s childcare and elderly nutrition expenses, have also increased.

“Demand for childcare, mental health services and support for the elderly has never been higher, but costs are rising rapidly and it is increasingly difficult to meet the demand,” said Hansberger.

Community members interested in helping can donate or set up a monthly donation through the organization’s website. Family Service Association also welcomes volunteers, who can contact the organization to inquire about current opportunities.

The organization seeks highly qualified board members, especially those with expertise as a lawyer, in real estate or facilities management.

“Poverty is often the result of a breakdown in community support and the team at FSA is honored to address this need in our community,” Hansberger said. “We invite others to join us in this important mission.”

Information: 951-686-1096 or www.fsaca.org/

Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen the interior of Southern California through philanthropy.

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