Volunteers pack food for Grandma’s House of Hope

Community replenishes food for homeless children

Thieves stole thousands of meals destined for homeless kids in Santa Ana, California — but then a community sprang into action to aid Grandma’s House of Hope.

July 9, 2015

Thieves came in the night and stole thousands of pounds of food destined for underprivileged and homeless children. So staff members from Grandma’s House of Hope in Santa Ana, California, were scrambling to recover.

In addition to the nutrition program for kids, the nonprofit provides shelter and support for abused women, homeless children, disabled seniors, and others.

Shortly after the theft, the nonprofit’s founder, Je’net Kreitner, got a call from Wells Fargo team member Virginia DePaola, a long-time supporter in nearby Irvine: “What can we do to help?” she asked.

Je’net says she told the well-known community volunteer, “‘Just go work your magic’ — and boy did she get busy! It was just amazing to see what happened.”

The food drive that ensued mobilized the entire community and replenished tenfold the food and financial losses to the nonprofit’s summer nutrition program, Je’net says. She credits Virginia, a senior financial analyst for Wells Fargo Dealer Services, with playing a key role in the 24-hour effort, which raised more than $30,000 in cash and enough food for nearly 8,000 meals.

“She’s just a powerhouse,” Je’net says. “And she’s always been there for us.”

Donations pour in

Virginia says all it took was an email blast and she almost immediately had more than 200 responses from team members, other people, and businesses in the community offering help for the popular charity.

“Everyone knows what a great organization it is and what a great job Je’net does,” says Virginia, a Grandma’s House board member. “It didn’t take long for the word to spread and people to respond.”

Food and cash soon poured in from across Orange County as well as Los Angeles as Dealer Services’ headquarters in Irvine transformed into a drop-off point for the donations. By Saturday afternoon, two days after the break-in, meals for 550 children were ready for distribution.

“In the 10 years we’ve been here, we’ve never seen anything like this,” Je’net says. “It was an unprecedented show of support by this community.”

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