When the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep across the United States, Families Forward didn’t skip a beat.

Headquartered here in Irvine, Families Forward is a nonprofit that works towards preventing and ending family homelessness across Orange County through a variety of programs.

I had a chance to speak with Families Forward CEO Madelynn Hirneise to hear about how they have adapted their programs under the new challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hirneise said, “Families Forward is constantly looking for ways to innovate and serve our community during these challenging times.  Since March 17th, we have been operating a drive-thru food assistance program.  While continuing to observe proper distancing and sanitation protocols, we have provided more than 26,000 individuals with hunger relief.  In addition, Families Forward has been able to continue our other supportive services virtually, including a telehealth program for counseling, case management, career coaching and housing navigation through a variety of video and phone conferencing.  Our educational workshops are held via Zoom.  We’ve also digitized forms and implemented the use of electronic signatures.”

Hirneise added, “As we look forward, keeping families impacted by COVID-19 housed is going to be a key focus for our organization.  For that reason, we have strengthened our prevention and diversion program, with the goal of preventing families who are facing a financial crisis from losing their current housing situation.”

Community food drives are essential to keeping the pantry stocked.  As you can imagine, providing food assistance for over 100 families a day requires a constant and steady stream of food donations.

Here are ways you can help:

  • Host a porch pick-up drive.  Place a box out for friends and neighbors to drop off food donations.
  • Drop off a bag of essential items at 8 Thomas in Irvine during pantry hours (Monday-Friday from 10am until 2pm).
  • Shop online and have items delivered directly through Amazon or Costco.

Families Forward will be opening their in-person operations soon, as the local government allows them to safely do so.  They will need help sorting and stocking their pantry.  You can learn more about volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved at www.families-forward.org.

Joel Smith