O.C. Steps Up: Shalimar Learning Center In Costa Mesa Provides Essentials

Melissa Arambula packing food; Photograph courtesy of Think Together Staff

To help us stay positive during these challenging times of mostly bad news, we’re sharing uplifting stories happening right here in Orange County. Be sure to check out the May issue of Orange Coast for many such profiles; in the meantime, we offer a few tidbits to make you happy now. Check our homepage each day for O.C. Steps Up—anecdotes about your neighbors doing whatever they can to lift the community.

Once schools shut down, the team at Shalimar Learning Center, an after-school education program in Costa Mesa owned and operated by Think Together, called the students’ families to see how they were doing. “Overwhelmingly the response was, ‘We’re scared,’ ” says Melissa Arambula, the center’s family and community coordinator. “They were scared because everybody was out stocking up on two weeks’ worth of supplies. Our families can’t afford that, so they were scared that there wasn’t going to be any food. We realized this is our new need now.”

With donations from longtime donors as well as the community, Shalimar Learning Center is able to provide around 110 families with $100 to $200 per week for 12 weeks as well as care packages. “The first week I was doing this, one of the parents with four children in our program was telling me one (parent) had lost their job and the other was only working three hours a week. Because of some shifting in the family, (they were) taking in their niece and nephew. They were only allowed two meals per day because they were rationing their food … and it’s hard to tell the kids … you have to wait till your next meal to eat,” Arambula says. “Despite that crazy challenge, the parents still remain optimistic. That’s when I was like we have to keep this going every week—they need the food.”

Depending on the weekly donations, care packages might include nonperishable food, fresh produce, household items such as toilet paper, dish soap, shampoo, and paper towels, art supplies and essentials for babies including diapers and formula. Donations can be dropped off every Monday at Shalimar Learning Center from 7:30 to 10 a.m. and care packages are delivered the next day. Donations can also be made at thinktogether.org/shalimarrelieffund.


For more uplifting stories, head to orangecoast.com/ocstepsup.

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