The San Fernando Valley Interfaith Council, with donations from government agencies and church groups around the country, has raised nearly half of its $500,000 goal for long-term earthquake relief.
The council was in a good position to help with emergency relief on Jan. 17 with all three senior centers and many of its 14 food pantry sites open within hours of the 6.8-magnitude shaker.
"We had to hire extra staff, but we already had existing programs to help people so we didn't have to reinvent the wheel," said Kimberly Schuler Hall, director of the council's Earthquake Response Project.
Five of six staffers hired for the project, including Hall herself, were people displaced from their regular employment by the destructive quake.
Hall, a Mormon who had been an active volunteer with the interfaith council for three years, was laid off by a Sherman Oaks department store a few weeks after the quake.
But she was quickly hired, at a $2,400-a-month salary, to direct the council's relief project, which will last at least until the end of January.
"If other monies come in, we'll go longer," said Hall, a mother who lives in Reseda. Her duties follow naturally on her unpaid work as the Mormon Church's regional director for public affairs with responsibility for community and interfaith relations in the Valley, she said.
Other staff positions for the project were funded through sources other than the approximately $235,000 raised to date for the long-range relief project.
"Half of that money came from Project Rebound of the Los Angeles County Mental Health Services," Hall said. People age 60 and older are assisted with counseling and other needs at the council-run senior centers in Van Nuys, North Hollywood and Pacoima, "but we don't turn down anyone else in need," Hall said.
Another major gift to the Earthquake Response Project was $50,000 from Pacific Telesis, again for work with senior citizens, she said.
The latest donation was a $5,000 check from Bank of America presented Friday at the Interfaith Council office in Chatsworth.
But donations have arrived steadily from other interfaith councils and congregations around the country.
"Church World Service, which gave us $5,000 within days of the earthquake, put out a nationwide appeal," Hall said. "Even churches and church councils that have been victims of flooding and hurricanes have sent checks."
The interfaith council has more than 270 affiliated congregations of various faiths, but the long-range relief work has been done mainly in cooperation with other community service agencies--religious, secular and government-related.
Hall was elected secretary of the new General Unmet Needs Committee, formed in the Valley at the request of the American Red Cross, and she is chairwoman of the group's specific-case review committee.