Connecting Communities in Need

By Emily Compton

Fort Sage Family Resource Center volunteers put together food boxes for families impacted by the Laura Fire in 2020. Photo courtesy of Fort Sage Family Resource Center

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the dedication and commitment of those who put others first, such as Janice Gotcher.

Janice has been the executive director of the Fort Sage Family Resource Center since 2008 and has been working with the center for 14 years. Janice determined that there was a greater need in the area for food resources. She began researching food pantries and how she could build on what they were already providing, with funding being the biggest obstacle. The Food Pantry was started in 2011, and began with just one shelf and some canned goods.

Funding for the Food Pantry is provided by the Lassen-Plumas-Sierra Community Action Agency (LPSCAA). The LPSCAA provides federal funds to a broad array of community-based organizations in the three counties. It specializes in services such as health, nutrition, child care and preschool, emergency services (food, shelter, clothing), and youth and family development.

The Food Pantry has grown exponentially and now works closely with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, which is its main food supplier. The Food Bank of Northern Nevada serves 90,000 square miles throughout northern Nevada and the eastern slope of the sierras in California.

Library volunteers Sarah Lamb and Thistle O’Donnell. Photo courtesy of Fort Sage Family Resource Center

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Household Food Insecurity Report, more than 35 million people in the U.S. struggled with hunger in 2019. This statistic shows how important organizations like the Fort Sage Family Resource Center are to keeping communities fed. There are no eligibility requirements for receiving food from the pantry.

Today, with Janice’s direction and many volunteers, the food pantry delivers more than 118,000 pounds of food to its community every year. Janice hopes to continue to expand its offerings to the communities it serves.

The center’s mission is to connect the communities of Doyle, Herlong, and Milford to each other and county services and programs. Listening to the needs of the community has long been part of the center’s mission. “We have a very diverse community. There are people from all over the world and locals who were born and raised here who all together make up our very tight community.” Janice says.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed much for the center. Staff continues to provide essential services in the community, now with their personal protective gear on. Janice says that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain uncertainties, they don’t have as many choices when ordering, but there has been an increase in the free food they have received from the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. There are limits to the amount of food each client receives to make sure everyone gets a fair share.

FSFRC Executive Director Janice Gotcher and De De Mitchell, the new Recovery and Life Coach Specialist.

The food bank isn’t the only program the center provides to the community. The center also offers assistance to its clients through job search assistance, support with applying for Medi-Cal and other social services, weatherization services, and holiday dinners. It also has sourced personal protective equipment distributed to community members during the pandemic.

The center partners with Lassen County Health and Social Services to provide community members with behavioral health, access to telemedicine, and a peer-to-peer support program. Although they do not have a therapist on staff, the program provides counseling to people in need who don’t otherwise have access to behavioral health. The center has a private room for telemedicine appointments.

The center also has a thrift store offering a variety of goods. All of the proceeds from the store go back to the center and a free library. Volunteers are greatly needed for both. The thrift store is open from 10 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday. Please call (530) 827-3007 before visiting. The center library is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 2 pm to 6 pm and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm.

Friday Night Light participants educating their community on underage drinking.

During the holiday season, the center has a program where gifts are handed out to local youth by Santa.

Friday Night Live! is another program sponsored by the center. This youth program is a statewide program that works with teens to fight youth drug, gambling, and alcohol use.

The organization “builds partnerships for positive and healthy youth development.” Locally, members of the program have educated the community on underage drinking by placing neon stickers in alcohol beverage cases to discourage selling alcohol to minors and participated in caroling around the community during the holidays.

The Fort Sage Family Resource Center food pantry is open on the first and third Fridays of every month from 9 am to noon. The Resource Center is open Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 3 pm.

Thank you to all the workers and volunteers who put others first to ensure the health and vitality of their communities.

If you would like more information about the Resource Center or would like to volunteer, please call (530) 827-3007 or visit the Fort Sage FRC Facebook page. To make a donation, checks can be sent to the Fort Sage Resource Center, PO Box 623 Herlong, CA 96113.