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Water Utility Workers Embrace Holiday Giving

The San Diego region’s water and wastewater agencies have a long tradition of supporting holiday charitable giving to a wide array of nonprofit services. The effort continues in 2020 with no slowdown despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Teresa Chase helps load up donations from Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees. They are playing Santa Claus to a family of seven, a local senior, and a veteran in its annual adopt-a-family effort, and filled a truck bed with donations for the San Diego Humane Society. Photo: Olivenhain Municipal Water District

Water Utility Workers Embrace Holiday Giving

The San Diego region’s water and wastewater agencies have a long tradition of supporting holiday charitable giving to a wide array of nonprofit services. The tradition continues in 2020 with no slowdown despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Toys bring joy to kids in need

Helix Water District employees, board members and customers donated virtually and in person to Helix's Toys for Tots toy drive, which will provide holiday gifts to less fortunate children throughout East County. Photo: Helix Water District Holiday giving

Helix Water District employees, board members and customers donated virtually and in person to the agency’s Toys for Tots drive, which will provide holiday gifts to less fortunate children throughout East San Diego County. Photo: Helix Water District

For more than 15 years, Sweetwater Authority employees have been active participants in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, providing toys to children in its service area. Every year, employees take a tag that contains information about the recipient (age, gender, toy request). The employee shops for the item and brings them back unwrapped to the office. The Salvation Army pickups and delivers the donated toys.

With many employees working from home this year due to the pandemic, several made arrangements to have their gifts shipped directly to the office, or stopped by to drop off a gift.

“Every year, I enjoy seeing the collection of toys selected by our employees for the children of South Bay. I am always so proud of the generosity and kindness of our team – It is one of the joys of the holiday season,” said Tish Berge, Sweetwater Authority general manager.

Helix Water District staff is donating to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program, and encouraged its customers to participate. Each holiday season, the U.S. Marine Corps partners with local nonprofits and businesses to collect toys for distribution to children. Helix employees at all four of the district’s facilities collected new and unwrapped toys. “If there was ever a time to help families in need, this is it,” said Helix spokesperson Vince Dambrose.

San Diego County Water Authority employees enthusiastically support Toys for Tots through its Employee Association. President Angela Tomayko, administrative assistant to the Colorado River Program and MWD Program, said employees will donate $500 toward the purchase of toys for the program.

San Diego Food Bank virtual drives provide assistance 

The Water Authority and numerous member water agencies continue to support the San Diego Food Bank during the holiday season. Photo: San Diego Food Bank holiday giving

The San Diego County Water Authority and numerous member water agencies continue to support the San Diego Food Bank during the holiday season. Photo: San Diego Food Bank

Early in the pandemic, the San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies launched a virtual food drive in partnership with the San Diego Food Bank to provide assistance to those affected by the pandemic.

The Otay Water District was an original partner in the virtual food drive and has continued its commitment along with its nearly 226,000 customers, employees, and any supporter able to donate. As a result of its holiday season efforts, the Otay Water District raised $5,400 in food and monetary donations for the Food Bank.

“Because of the economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis, demands for food and aid have skyrocketed across the county,” said Tenille Otero, Otay communications officer. “People are without jobs, without paychecks, and without money to feed and support their households. Through the food bank effort, the District, its employees, and customers can assist those affected by the pandemic.”

Helix Water District also partnered directly with the San Diego Food Bank early in the pandemic, raising more than $6,000 for the program. Both the food drive, and its Toys for Tots effort are run as part of the “Helix Helps” program created in 2017. Helix employees, families and friends volunteer their time to support the communities the district serves.

City of Escondido employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. photo; city of Escondido Holiday giving

City of Escondido employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. Photo: City of Escondido

City of Escondido employees including the water and wastewater divisions put together “Souper Sacks,” bags of non-perishable food and fun surprises distributed through the city’s senior program at the Park Avenue Community Center. Last year, 341 Souper Sacks were donated.

In addition, employees participate in the annual “PJ Angels” program. New pajamas are collected for multiple local agencies serving children in crisis. Children receive a new set of pajamas to bring them comfort during their most challenging moments.

In previous years, items were delivered to the nonprofits with an escort by the Escondido Fire Department. “This year, distribution will be lower key, but participation in both of these longstanding programs has not waivered,” said Teresa Collins, Escondido communications manager.

Supporting clean water worldwide

Baskets of Wonderful Pistachios benefit the Water for People program year after year. Photo: Water for People

Baskets of Wonderful Pistachios benefit the Water for People program year after year. Photo: Water for People

For 15 years, Olivenhain Municipal Water District employees have enthusiastically supported fundraising for the nonprofit Water for People. It works with communities across the globe to install safe water and sanitation systems, educating local people on good health practices and saving thousands of lives. Olivenhain employees have volunteered abroad helping set up water and sewer systems with the full support of the agency.

During the holiday season, the San Diego chapter holds a competition to sell the most gift baskets donated by Wonderful Pistachios. Employees help assemble the baskets for sale. Olivenhain hoped for a “three-peat” win but settled for a close second place, selling 179 baskets.

Water Authority employees also purchased baskets. Employee Association President Angela Tomayko noted, “they sold out quickly!”

Olivenhain employees are playing Santa Claus to a family of seven, a local senior, and a veteran in its annual adopt-a-family effort, and filled a truck bed with donations for the San Diego Humane Society. Employees also participate with paycheck deductions through the United Way.

“We like to cast a wide net to make the season brighter for as many as we can – seniors, children, vets, and even four-legged friends,” said Teresa Chase, administrative analyst.

“I enjoy shopping for the families and I like collecting for animals, too,” said district accountant Lisa Maxwell, who has worked at Olivenhain Municipal Water District for 23 years. “It’s just something that brings joy. We could use it, this year especially.”

Water Authority employees embrace philanthropy year-round

This year, the Water Authority established a new employee-driven Charitable Giving Committee to support nonprofits year-round. Chair John Kross, Engineering Department right of way manager, and committee member Liz Mendelson-Goossens, principal water resources specialist, MWD Program, said the committee has established new guidelines and surveyed employees to select recipients, the San Diego Food Bank, San Diego Humane Society, and Rady Children’s Hospital.

Without the ability to hold face-to-face events, the committee launches its first virtual fundraiser with a holiday theme. Through the end of the year, employees can compete in a holiday attire contest, donating to enter a photo in one of three categories: Ugliest, Most Creative, and Best Homemade. Fellow employees will vote on the winners.

Otay Water District Supports Virtual Food Drive During COVID-19 Crisis

At a time when it is needed most, the Otay Water District is partnering with the San Diego County Water Authority, other local water agencies, and the San Diego Food Bank to provide food assistance through a virtual food drive for those affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

San Diego Food System Alliance Seeks Community Input

The San Diego Food System Alliance this week announced for the public’s help in creating a 10-year strategic plan for moving the region toward a healthier, more sustainable and more just food system.

With the community’s support, the Alliance plans to create Food Vision 2030, a plan that will be used to help prioritize food issues, design goals & objectives, and direct resources in a way that meets the needs of all communities in San Diego County.

7 Things You Can Do Now to Support San Diego Farms, Food Economy

The San Diego Food System Alliance is calling on San Diego County leaders and residents to recognize the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on our local food system—including food businesses, farms and fisheries, food and farm workers, and food security.

San Diego Food Bank-Virtual Food Bank-Covid-19-primary photo

San Diego Regional Water Agencies Help Fight Hunger During Pandemic

An effort to bolster food bank supplies and fight hunger in San Diego County is getting a helping hand from the region’s public water agencies.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies are supporting a virtual food drive in partnership with the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. The campaign allows donors to select and purchase items such as canned meats, vegetables, fruits, peanut butter and oatmeal for distribution to needy residents. To donate, go to www.bit.ly/SDWaterAgencyFoodDrive.

The Water Authority Board leadership launched the effort for staff and Board members in late March, then expanded it by inviting 24 retail member agencies countywide to join the effort to fight hunger. So far, approximately $20,000 has been contributed through donation portals established by the Water Authority and member agencies.

Help fight hunger

In addition, water agencies have partnered with the Food Bank to inform its clients that it is unnecessary to purchase bottled water when convenient, clean drinking water is available 24/7 at the tap for about a penny a gallon.

“The region’s water industry is committed to sustaining our community in this time of acute need,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “The San Diego region has come together time and again to meet challenges such as wildfires, and we’re doing the same to provide hunger relief during this crisis.”

Demands for food increase during pandemic

The San Diego Food Bank typically helps feed 350,000 people each month at 200 distribution sites — and demands have skyrocketed as the economic impacts of coronavirus closures ripple across the region.

Donations to the San Diego Food Bank are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. The San Diego Food Bank is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Essential workers on the job

In response to the pandemic, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have increased regional coordination and communication to ensure continued delivery of safe and reliable water service for San Diego County. Public water supplies in the region remain safe to drink due to numerous robust treatment processes used by local and regional water providers.

As essential workers, the region’s water and wastewater system employees will continue to work to ensure safe and reliable water services.

San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors Chair Jim Madaffer-primary-View from the Chair

Jim Madaffer: Strategic Steps to Address Emerging Fiscal Realities

Across the country, public agencies are scrambling to fill holes created by the pandemic – financial holes and, worse yet, holes in the workforce. It is safe to assume, until a vaccine is developed or an antibody treatment is found, we are living the new normal.

As we hope and pray that the worst days of the coronavirus are behind us, I am so thankful that the Water Authority took aggressive early action to protect employees and that we have had no COVID-related illnesses. I’m also grateful to report that our region’s water treatment and delivery systems are in good shape, and that they continue to provide clean, safe drinking water 24/7 due to the efforts of a few thousand employees of the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies. These dedicated public servants are doing their jobs day and night, despite numerous personal and logistical challenges.

That said, our region’s water agencies are collectively facing serious declines in revenues; businesses are not using water as expected, which means water sales have plummeted. Unlike some other industries, most of our costs are fixed. In fact, the Water Authority’s operating departments only account for about 6 percent of the budget.

This means that even when water sales drop, we still must pay the “mortgage” on the system – from pumps to pipes to filtration and whatever other costs we cannot control, such as increases from our water suppliers or higher costs for energy and treatment chemicals. For instance, we expect the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to raise rates in San Diego County by more than 7 percent in 2021 despite our pleas for relief on your behalf.

Details about the financial impact of coronavirus will take weeks or months to emerge, but the Water Authority is already taking proactive steps to address anticipated challenges, from instituting a hiring freeze to assessing which non-essential projects and expenses can be deferred. I assure you that we are working every day to sustain our core mission to maintain the many values that we provide our region and make smart choices to ensure our long-term viability.

It is not an easy task, but we have 75 years of history that say we can do this together – and I know we will.

On a hopeful note, the region’s water agencies have joined forces to raise thousands of dollars for the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank through voluntary donations by board members and employees. We’re always looking for opportunities to raise more money given the ongoing significance of the need. Click here to donate – and do not forget to share the link with family, friends and others who may want to participate. Every dollar helps feed those in need.

View From The Chair represents the viewpoints of Jim Madaffer, Chair of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.

San Diego Regional Water Agencies Boost Efforts to Fight Hunger

An effort to bolster food bank supplies and fight hunger in San Diego County is getting a helping hand from the region’s public water agencies.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies are supporting a virtual food drive in partnership with the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. The campaign allows donors to select and purchase items such as canned meats, vegetables, fruits, peanut butter and oatmeal for distribution to needy residents. To donate, go to www.bit.ly/SDWaterAgencyFoodDrive.

 

Helix Water District Employees Fundraiser Not Just Food for Thought

“Helix Helps,” the Helix Water District’s employee volunteer program, started a “virtual food drive” on Wednesday in partnership with the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, and had raised more than $1,860 Friday morning, with more expected.

San Diego County Food Bank-Coronavirus-Story2-primary

San Diego Regional Water Agencies Boost Efforts to Fight Hunger

An effort to bolster food bank supplies and fight hunger in San Diego County is getting a helping hand from the region’s public water agencies.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies are supporting a virtual food drive in partnership with the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. The campaign allows donors to select and purchase items such as canned meats, vegetables, fruits, peanut butter and oatmeal for distribution to needy residents. To donate, go to www.bit.ly/SDWaterAgencyFoodDrive.

The Water Authority Board leadership launched the effort for staff and Board members about two weeks ago, then expanded it by inviting 24 retail member agencies countywide to join the effort to fight hunger. So far, nearly $6,000 has been contributed through that portal, and some member agencies are setting up their own portals for their service areas.

Help fight hunger

In addition, water agencies have partnered with the Food Bank to inform its clients that it is unnecessary to purchase bottled water when convenient, clean drinking water is available 24/7 at the tap for about a penny a gallon.

“The region’s water industry is committed to sustaining our community in this time of acute need,” said Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. “The San Diego region has come together time and again to meet challenges such as wildfires, and we’re doing the same to provide hunger relief during this crisis.”

Demands for food increase during pandemic

The San Diego Food Bank typically helps feed 350,000 people each month at 200 distribution sites — and demands have skyrocketed as the economic impacts of coronavirus closures ripple across the region.

Donations to the San Diego Food Bank are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. The San Diego Food Bank is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Essential workers on the job

In response to the pandemic, the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have increased regional coordination and communication to ensure continued delivery of safe and reliable water service for San Diego County. Public water supplies in the region remain safe to drink due to numerous robust treatment processes used by local and regional water providers.

As essential workers, the region’s water and wastewater system employees will continue to work to ensure safe and reliable water services.