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Seneca Family of Agencies helping SLO County families through difficult times

For more than 10 years, Seneca Family of Agencies has provided child and family services throughout San Luis Obispo County.

“We are a non-profit that is committed to the unconditional care of children and families,” said Marta Nielsen, Seneca Family of Agencies Family Ties program coordinator. “We’re doing whatever it takes to help children and families thrive even during the most challenging times.”

The agency runs three primary programs, Seneca Children’s Mental Health Clinic, Family Ties, Kinship Center’s Placement Program and Parent Psycho-Educational Training.

The Family Ties program supports guardians, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle, etc., that is caring for another relative’s child.

Families in the program can receive food free of charge twice a month from Seneca through its relationship as an agency partner with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.

“A lot of time we have fresh produce and that sort of thing,” said Nielsen. “These are all sorts of things that we get from the Food Bank, like canned goods as well, so that goes to help stretch out their family budget.”

Nielsen emphasizes that many Family Ties clients are retired that are living on fixed-incomes.

“Many times this is unplanned,” Nielsen said. “They weren’t planning on raising a second family and so sometimes finances are tight and they need help with food.”

Nancy Chapin is a longtime North County resident and a Family Ties client. She grew up in Atascadero and still lives in the area.

Now 79-years-old, Chapin is also raising her 12-year-old great-granddaughter Hunter.

“She’s up to my shoulders now and she’s into soccer,” Chapin said. “She loves drawing and she loves singing. She’s fun to be with and I just love her.”

Chapin has raised her great-granddaughter since she was born.

“It’s a financial challenge,” said Chapin. “You have to really watch your income and pick ahead of time what you might do for the month.”

Chapin is able to supplement her budget with food she receives through the program.

“Seneca helps me with the Food Bank that they have,” said Chapin. “We come here and get our vegetables, our fruit and our canned goods.”

With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, she also has something else she can receive.

“During the holidays, we’re eligible for a turkey,” said Chapin.

Turkeys provided by Seneca come from Food Bank, which receives them through the upcoming KCOY Turkey Drive.

“Meals are very important culturally to the stability of a family,” said Food Bank Partner Services Manager Suzie Freeman. “Being able to provide a whole turkey that a family can go through the entire method of preparing this bird, carving it and then serving each other, helps us bring dignity to those that we serve.”

Turkeys collected on the day of the drive, Thursday, Nov. 15, directly benefit Family Ties clients such as Chapin.

Seneca already has 40 turkeys on order with Food Bank.

Nielsen adds money saved on purchasing a turkey will likely be directed to other areas of need.

“Maybe they can take a little bit of that money that was going to go towards the food budget, maybe they can put it towards recreation or put it towards that new uniform because we need to remember a lot of these people (don’t have) a lot of the extra curricular money available for some of these things that kids need,” Nielsen.

The community can help out dozens of Seneca clients by donating a turkey, non-perishable food or financial contributions this Thursday.

“I’m grateful. Very grateful,” said Chapin. “It’s just helps us immensely.”

The KCOY Turkey Drive will be held Thursday, Nov. 15 from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at various locations.

Turkeys, non-perishable food and monetary donations will be accepted at the KCOY building in Santa Maria, Grocery Outlet in Lompoc, California Fresh Market in Pismo Beach, Food Bank Coalition of San Luis County headquarters in San Luis Obispo and Vons in Atascadero.

Collections in San Luis Obispo County benefit Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.

Collections in Santa Barbara County benefit Good Samaritan Shelter.

For more information, visit the KCOY Turkey Drive webpage.

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