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Valley Perspective

30 Years of Helping

February 18, 2001

MEND--Meet Each Need with Dignity--will turn 30 this week doing pretty much what it has always done.

Oh, there will be a banquet and speeches, toasts and testimonials, all greatly deserved.

But there will also be hungry families lined up outside the nonprofit organization's rambling Pacoima offices for boxes of food, as usual. There will be housekeepers and waitresses without health insurance needing medical care, new immigrants wanting help learning English, teenagers hoping to improve their prospects by studying computers.

MEND staff and volunteers will respond to the needs of poverty-level families in the northeast San Fernando Valley in the same way they have since 1971--that is, with care and respect.

More than 30% of northeast Valley residents live in poverty, compared with 22.1% countywide. Families pay exorbitant rents to live doubled up in garages or in cramped trailers. Parents work two or three jobs but still have to choose between feeding a child or seeing a doctor.

Many of the people who come to MEND for help--clients, in the parlance of MEND staff and volunteers--are among the hardest working people anyone could hope to meet. But life is harder.

Gains come slowly; setbacks are all too frequent. Take a week of rain like the one just passed. It can be a nuisance to someone who has to drive slick roads to the office. It's a week without desperately needed income to someone who works in a carwash or as a gardener.

There is no holier-than-thou attitude at MEND. Poverty here is not a judgment to be passed but a condition to be surpassed--and it's hard work.

MEND is there to help provide for basic needs during the toughest times. But it also helps people to help themselves, to break out of the cycle of poverty through training and education.

Services offered have grown to include food, clothing, furniture, medical, dental and vision care, English as a second language classes, computer classes and job training and placement assistance.

Any time of day, MEND's Pacoima center bustles with activity. Volunteers--they now number 1,200, some of them former clients who want to give back to the community--sort clothes and food. Clients come for classes and clinics.

Dropping by this extraordinary place would be an appropriate way to mark its 30th anniversary. And since this is a birthday, bring a gift.

Clean out your closets before you go; MEND can always use donated clothing, particularly men's (who don't seem to sort through their wardrobes as often as women). Pick up some extra canned goods at the grocery store. Bring your checkbook. Or volunteer your time.

MEND deserves all the toasts and testimonials it will get this week. But the best way to salute its 30 years of service is to help it keep on for 30 more.

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To Take Action: To volunteer time or donate food, clothing, furniture or money, contact MEND, 13460 Van Nuys Blvd., Pacoima, 91331, (818) 896-0246.

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