The Brentwood Regional Community Chest (BRCC) is used to presenting needy families with full dinners, canned food and thoughtful gifts during the holidays.
But it was the organization itself that has received some early help.
The City of Brentwood granted $18,000 to the group to ensure that it can continue its yearly tradition of providing holiday meals to those in need.
BRCC leaders had expressed concern that COVID-19-related financial challenges for businesses, combined with service groups’ current fundraising constraints, might jeopardize a large chunk of its traditional funding sources.
“I panicked that we weren’t able to do anything this year,” said Lill Pierce, a BRCC board member and daughter of the late Rose Pierce, who founded the program from her Brentwood porch more than 50 years ago. “This is such a relief for us. At least we have turkey dinners, and the rest, we will just have to figure out as we go along.”
City leaders said the opportunity to aid the valued community institution during these unprecedented times was a must.
The city-directed money is part of the $100,000 allotted by the council earlier this year for organizations that provide groceries and meals to needy residents.
The city expects to be able to recoup the funds through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
At the time of the city granted funds to the BRCC, $4,000 remained in the grocery and meal fund, with money already allocated to Hope House, the Rotary Club of Brentwood, St. Vincent de Paul at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Meals on Wheels, and His Presence Christian Worship.
“The community chest is a great tradition, but it is more than tradition,” said Vice Mayor Joel Bryant. “It’s actually helping feed families that otherwise might not have dinner … I have talked to many dozens of people in the past who have said they would not have been able to have a Christmas dinner or get presents to their children.”
The volunteer group traditionally provides full holiday dinners, canned food and presents to Brentwood, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen and Bethel Island families. (Oakley residents are served through a separate organization, Friends of Oakley.)
BRCC served 410 families last year but expects that number to climb to the 550 maximum due to families’ COVID-19-related financial struggles.
“I think we will be right back up to our capacity again,” Pierce said.
BRCC leaders say they now plan to shift their attention to other pandemic-induced program challenges.
The entity traditionally solicits unwrapped toys and canned food donations around town, including at school sites that these days lack students, Pierce said.
Sorting, packing and distributing the food and items requires large groups working together for several hours, which will likely require COVID-19 amendments.
Disease-controlling changes may also be necessary to accommodate the required in-person registration of families seeking assistance.
For now, BRCC is seeking monetary donations to cover other costs, such as toys.
“We can now focus on raising funds to provide toys to the nearly 550 local families we plan on helping this Christmas,” said BRCC co-President Dana Eaton.
For more information on the organization, or to donate, visit http://www.brcchest.org.