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Oakland Housing Authority prepares Christmas baskets for residents

on December 17, 2010

Laughter, cheers and the occasional clanging of cans of green beans echoed through an East Oakland warehouse Friday morning as volunteers finished packing more than 500 holiday gift baskets for public housing residents at sites across the city.

On Monday, the baskets, each containing enough food to feed a family of five, will be distributed by the Oakland Housing Authority, which oversees more than 1,600 public housing units across the city, from the administrative offices of three of their housing sites: Lockwood Gardens, Peralta Villa and Campbell Village.

OHA Police Chief Carel Duplessis was one of the volunteers who helped fill the bright blue gift bags. Photo courtesy of Judy Monnier, Oakland Housing Authority.

Last year, housing authority employees donated enough food to feed 44 families. This year, they expect to feed 500 families.

“We’ve done this for several years, but it’s always been on a small scale,” said OHA Police Chief Carel Duplessis, as police officers and OHA employees—12 percent of the OHA’s work force—filled bright blue bags containing this year’s holiday meals and loaded them onto a truck via human chain. “This has always been a volunteer-driven initiative, but this year we really put together a comprehensive plan to reach as many families as we could.”

The plan resulted in 500 baskets, each filled to capacity with items such as sweet potatoes, cake mix and frosting, corn bread, beans, a 10-pound bag of potatoes and holiday recipes—“everything a family needs for a complete Christmas meal,” added Duplessis.

Frozen turkeys are scheduled for delivery to the OHA on Monday, ready to be included in each holiday basket upon distribution.

“Times are hard for families, especially when you have kids to take care of, and this is how we help,” said Helga Garcia, administrative assistant to the OHA Police Department Chief and one of Friday’s more than 46 basket-packing volunteers. “God blesses me in certain ways and I have to turn around and pay it forward.”

“We already planning for next year,” said Garcia.”We already have 500 donations for next year.”

More than 10 percent of families in Oakland live in public housing. The housing authority works with more than 13,000 families across the city. Their average income of these households is about $15,000, several thousand dollars below the federal poverty line.

For more information, visit the OHA website or call 510-874-1512.

Lead image: OHA employee Boris Nemirovskiy was one of 46 volunteers that helped pack holiday dinners for Oakland families at their East Oakland Service Center this morning. Photo by Roberto Daza.

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