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Families in need receive help for the holidays

By Bianca Cseke
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Almost every nonprofit organization in the Las Vegas valley has some sort of program aimed at providing extra help for families and individuals who need it during this time of the year – and HELP of Southern Nevada is no exception.

HELP of Southern Nevada is a nonprofit organization that has provided human services to low-income families and individuals in the Las Vegas valley since 1970.

The organization just completed its annual turkey and grocery drive last weekend, just in time for Thanksgiving. The results of the drive will help 1,200 families in the community have a dinner on Thanksgiving when they would not have been able to afford it otherwise.

HELP of Southern Nevada chooses the recipients of these holiday meals through an application process. Only the first 1,200 applicants who qualified before the Nov. 14 deadline could receive assistance, and families who received holiday assistance from the organization in 2013 or 2014 were not eligible again this year.

“Holiday assistance is nice to have, but it’s not something families need to have,” said Joan Lima, community outreach coordinator at HELP of Southern Nevada. “We also encourage self-sufficiency because we are not a permanent solution – that’s why there are more stringent requirements for our holiday programs.”

Families seeking assistance cannot make more than 200 percent above the official poverty level. This means that a household with three people cannot earn more than $40,180 per year, or $3,348.33 per month.

HELP of Southern Nevada’s other holiday assistance program is a toy drive for families with children under 17 or those over 18 still in high school.

Together, the two programs provide assistance to a total of 3,000 families throughout the holiday season.

The organization’s goal is to get enough eligible applications to fill these 3,000 spots each year. This year, it received 1,300 applications within just six days. That’s “a little lower than in past years,” but the organization is on track to meeting its goal, according to Lima.

Although the program will only run if HELP of Southern Nevada receives enough donations, this hasn’t been an issue thanks to generous donations from individuals and other organizations.

For example, the Junior League of Las Vegas alone donated over 2,200 bags of groceries on Nov. 21.

Other than by providing an individual donation, Lima said that members of the community can help out by organizing turkey drives through their businesses or schools.

But HELP of Southern Nevada has programs to help families in the Las Vegas community throughout the year, not just during the holidays.

“This is all year, not just a holiday thing,” said Mark Hooper, a volunteer during the drive on Nov. 21. “It’s an everyday thing for us.”

Hooper described the other programs HELP of Southern Nevada offers throughout the year, including emergency resources, homeless services and the weatherization program.

The weatherization program helps low-income families who lack the resources to invest in energy efficiency. HELP of Southern Nevada will look at someone’s electricity bill and determine why it might be too high. If it’s because of inefficient practices, then the program will help that individual or family invest in things that would make their electricity use more efficient and therefore cheaper. An example would be fixing appliances that use more energy than they should because they are broken.

This year’s Thanksgiving food drive ended on Nov. 21 and the donations were distributed to selected families and individuals on Nov. 23.

Lima said the work HELP of Southern Nevada does is something she can be proud of. She has worked for the organization for over three and a half years.

“We help a lot of people,” Lima said. “It’s nice to work for an agency that does so much good.”

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