There are still boxes to be unpacked, cans of food to be stacked and blinds to be placed on the front windows.
But at 9 a.m. today, workers with the Episcopal Service Alliance of San Clemente plan on opening the doors of their new office to the needy and working poor of the area.
"It's a big chore," said program manager Ellen Gilchrist of the move to a former Honda showroom on El Camino Real that began two weeks ago. "You have to take one step at a time."
The largest charity group of its kind in South County, the 12-year-old agency serves about 65 people each weekday, giving them such things as food, diapers, bus fare, motel vouchers and, in some cases, rent money. About 175 volunteers work at the agency, which also runs a 14-bed shelter for homeless families and a thrift store. Last year, the agency helped 19,495 people.
The nonprofit agency decided about seven months ago to move from its previous address of six years on Avenida Pico because the rent had become prohibitive, Gilchrist said.
But the move was not a cheap one. Earlier this month, Gilchrist asked the city to waive about $1,800 in conditional use permit and building permit fees. While the financially strapped city was not able to waive all the fees, council members gave the agency $1,200 from its emergency account to help with moving.
With the larger and more accessible new office at 1709 N. El Camino Real, Gilchrist said she plans to expand the agency job-training program. "Many of these people have lost all confidence in looking for work," she said.
However, there will be some changes in programs. While the agency will still hand out bag lunches to people, the hot lunch program will temporarily be halted, Gilchrist said.
And because of county budget cuts, a mental health counseling program, which served about 15 people a day, will be discontinued shortly.
"My concern is (about) what is going to happen to those people," she said. "We seem to make cutbacks where they hurt the most. But you do the best you can. You have to go on."