This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, March 2022

Family Service Association (FSA) was founded by the Junior League and local faith-based organizations in the City of Riverside. Launched in the early 50s, these groups rallied together to assist military families who were struggling.

Today, FSA continues to address poverty, hunger and health, serving community members from infancy long into adulthood in under-served communities.

Many of FSA’s program participants are hard-working but still struggle to get by with low wages, fixed incomes, and the high cost of living in California, according to the organization’s Executive Director, Cheryl-Marie Hansberger. Through early education, trauma-informed mental health services, obtainable senior housing, support for home-bound individuals, safe senior/community centers, and nutritious meals for seniors, FSA serves over 13,000 community members each year.

“There are a lot of challenges in life, and we know that it’s a lot easier to get through them when you are surrounded by trustworthy community members that have your interest or your family’s best interest in mind,” Hansberger said.

FSA maintained its services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, even as it saw an increase in demand. Its Childhood Development Centers continued to provide childcare for frontline workers and families needing affordable childcare options. The centers served over 1,200 children last year.

FSA also works with community partners through its HOPE Collaborative to prevent the abuse and neglect of children in Riverside County.

The organization also saw the highest demand to date in the last year for senior nutrition, providing over 8,600 seniors with meals at 27 sites in the Inland Empire. Additionally, FSA distributed 10,000 PPE supplies throughout the region.

The services that FSA provides often help struggling families get the hand up they need to find future success, Hansberger said. Salena, a client who had two children enrolled in their Child Development Centers, shared stories about how her children would run into their FSA teachers at local stores, years after they aged out of the programs, and how excited they would be to see FSA team members.

Selena eventually secured a job with a local home builder who had a program to donate funding to a charity of each new employee’s choice. Recently, Salena selected FSA and made a point to call the organization and express how grateful she was for the support FSA provided at a critical juncture in her life.

“We love to see her family flourish and we are so grateful that she’s still seeking out ways to stay connected to the FSA community,” Hansberger said.

Recently, FSA received a grant from the Gabbert Justice Donor Advised Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. FSA depends on grants received from government agencies to support much of its programming. However, as minimum wage has increased year-over-year, these grants largely have not provided for wage increases for staff. Food costs, which are a sizable portion of FSA’s childcare and senior nutrition expenses, have also increased.

“Demands for childcare, mental health services and support for seniors have never been higher, yet costs are rapidly rising and it’s increasingly hard to keep up with demand,” Hansberger said.

Community members interested in helping with FSA’s work can make a donation or set up a monthly donation through the organization’s website. FSA also welcomes volunteers. New volunteers can contact the organization to inquire about their current volunteer opportunities list.

FSA is also seeking highly skilled board member, especially those with expertise as an attorney, in real estate or facility management.

“Poverty is often the result of a breakdown in community support and the team at FSA is honored to fill this need in our community,” Hansberger said. “We welcome others to join us on this important mission.”

More information: www.fsaca.org/ or  951-686-1096

Photo courtesy of FSA: The Settle Family, former participants at FSA Alvord Child Development Center, are now involved in the HOPE Collaborative, Riverside County’s Child Abuse Prevention Council. Blue pinwheels are a national symbol for child abuse prevention.

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