Itâ€™s too late to beat the freeze, but not too late to help those who will feel its bite in the weeks and months to come.
While growers and others throughout the agricultural industry have been affected by recent extreme temperature lows, the United Way of Ventura County and the Ventura County Community Foundation have opted to join forces in providing financial aid to farm workers, an often neglected segment of the industry.
â€œThis is a new need that is impacting our community,â€ said Susan Englund, vice president, community impact, for the United Way of Ventura County, a charitable non-profit organization that supports a wide variety of community programs. â€œAgriculture is such an important economic engine that we certainly donâ€™t want our farm workers to have to leave the area.â€
The two organizations have established an emergency fund to benefit workers displaced due to the recent freeze that damaged crops. With a $20,000 contribution from each of the two organizations, as well as a $1,000 contribution from a local grower, the fund is presently $41,000 strong, Englund said.
To distribute funds directly to farm workers and their families, a number of aid stations have been established. (The short-term aid is available to help with rent, food, utility assistance and incidentals.) There are currently sites in Moorpark, South Oxnard, Oxnardâ€™s La Colonia and El Rio neighborhoods, Fillmore, Santa Paula and Port Hueneme. â€œGeographically, we divided the county and gave some agencies dollars with which to work,â€ Englund said.
Hugh Ralston, president of the Ventura County Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on providing resources for charitable groups in Ventura County, said the foundation has a history of responding to disasters.
â€œWhen it became clear that the magnitude of the freeze was going to create a problem, we decided to extend a joint hand to the farm workers who would be impacted,â€ Ralston said.
Englund said that the organizations are continuing to solicit contributions to the fund, and are encouraging individuals, businesses and companies to contribute to either or both organizations.
Contributions to the freeze fund can be made to VCCF at 1317 Del Norte Road, Suite 150, Camarillo, 93010, 988-0196; or to United Way at 1317 Del Norte Road, Suite 100, Camarillo, 93010, 485-6288. Donations are distributed to local organizations offering disaster relief to farm workers, and no administrative fees are deducted from contributions.