We all start to think about what we are thankful for at this time of year and one of many things that makes me happy and proud to live in Dixon is people helping people. We care about our friends and families, but also have enough kindness left over to help our neighbors and the community at large. In my job, as an advocate for those who do not have much, I notice the charity and compassion from people who are fiscally comfortable and self-reliant enough to be able to help those less fortunate.
In 2018 and 2019 I wrote several letters, reports and articles to alert community members that Dixon Family Services (DFS) was financially insecure for the first time in many years. Historically at least one-third of our organization’s annual operating budget has come from government contracts or grants (City, County, State, Federal, First 5 Tobacco Taxes, Etc.). When Solano County Health and Social Services and First 5 Solano reduced and ended support of Family Resource Centers (FRCs) in 2018 and 2019 it was a big blow to the expected revenue of all FRCs in Solano County, including DFS.
The other two-thirds of budget revenue is typically generated from fundraising events, such as Comedy Night, donations and grants, such as the ones we receive from Kaiser Permanente, Genentech, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Solano Community Foundation and other non-government foundations. We also receive donations from many local businesses, churches, service organizations as well as numerous generous individuals.
Good news is that people heard our pleas for help to sustain Dixon Family Services. Many of those who have been long-time supporters increased the amounts of their giving and our list of supporters grew with at least a dozen new partners. Comedy Night 2019 was our most profitable yet because of generous sponsorships and the hard work of our Board of Directors. We look forward to forming many new relationships and partnerships in the future that will enable us to do more for the people we serve.
At DFS we offer Family Case Management, Basic Needs Safety Net Services, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling, Parenting Workshops and Peer Support Groups amongst other services and programs. The most highly requested service on a daily basis is for Information and Referrals. Many people on our phone or walking through our doors are in need of help for the first time in their lives and do not know where to start, who to call, or how to go about accessing benefits, healthcare and other basic necessities. We can often help with one or more of our services and can also refer to one of our co-located partners. If we do not have a particular resource at DFS, we take the time to research and find out where people can get the help they need.
We are pleased to report that we will continue serving families in need without government funding for now. We could not do this without the wonderful support from kind and caring citizens of Dixon. Our sustained organization is a testament to people helping people in their own community through their local non-profit social services organization, Dixon Family Services, Dixon’s Family Resource Center.
We do, however, hold hope that we will again apply for and get government funding for programs, whether from our own City of Dixon, County of Solano or State of California to increase resources for families in Dixon. Our operations have been pared down to make ends meet and keep the lights on here at DFS. We have left some open positions unfilled. Our frugality will persist and our smaller staff will continue to stretch itself, but it will be wonderful to get back to a full week with a full staff so that we can better serve people struggling to meet their basic needs.
As I reported in August, at least 14% of people in Dixon are living at or below poverty level. Also from the report: While we tightened our budget and reduced hours we persevered in helping many people in need. In Fiscal Year 18/19 there were 2,330 total DFS program appointments or sessions, 508 calls or emails from people seeking information and referrals for themselves or their loved ones, 239 served in mental health, behavioral health or peer support groups. Of the total served, 59 were veterans or family of veterans, 73 families were helped with their rent or utility bills, 228 were provided with food bags from the DFS Pantry and 23 families or individuals were homeless.
Other good news that keeps us hopeful is that State Bill 436 was recently signed into law. This is a very positive achievement that resulted from a long period of work and collaboration by many partners, including Dixon Family Services and other Solano County FRCs. The new law gives rightful recognition to the vital importance of community-based Family Resource Centers, opens doors for additional resources and plans for more support for low-income families struggling in California. We will keep the community updated about funding that may result from SB 436. We do not expect to realize new government funding right away but are hopeful that by fiscal year 2020/2021 we will.
Also in the good news category is that Dixon Family Services recently received generous support by way of grants from Kaiser Permanente, Genentech and Solano Community Foundation. Their financial support demonstrates their trust in us and belief in the good work we do. We are so happy to announce that this year our Mental Health Continuum of Care Program is again being supported by Kaiser with a $19,985 grant award from their Community Benefits Program. Also, our Safety Net Program continues to be supported by Genentech with a grant for $15,000. And this year for the first time ever a grant was made available for Operations Expenses, by The Solano Community Foundation. Our application was successful and they awarded DFS $7,467 to cover a percentage of operating expenses such as utilities, phone, copies, office supplies, postage and other costs of running our small non-profit business. Our total operations budget is annually approximately $34,000 and does not include wages or other payroll expenses. The gift from Solano Community Foundation is the first of its kind, very much appreciated, and we hope to see more similar opportunities to ask for grants to support operations expenses in the future.
And again I am so thankful for people in our community who are helping us cut back on expenses, such as the Girl Scouts who are currently hosting a postage stamp drive to try to reduce the expense of that budget item. Or there are Aaron and Kyle came and fixed our old air conditioner for free. Then there are also our friends, Patty and Mark, who have made it their mission that DFS will not run out of copy paper, toilet paper or paper towels as long as they have their Costco membership. And Ron and Mary who donate a check for $2,000 each year because they trust we will put the money to good use. There are so many illustrations of generosity that helps us keep our doors open at DFS. These are just a few examples. It warms my heart that so many people want to be part of our mission to improve lives.
So these are a few of the things I am thankful for at this time of year. The holidays are upon us and most of us will find joy in the season. Thoughts of family gathered around, eating a bounty of food, cozy and warm inside and playing games into the night always put a big smile on my face.
But sadly this time of year is also when low-income families struggle the most. Recent years of rising housing costs have had a severe impact and in the cold winter months the increased need for utilities, food, medicines and clothing causes additional strains on family budgets as well as psychological and emotional stressors on their minds.
With a financial contribution to DFS you have the power to help us make a difference in the lives of children and families in your own community. When you are thinking about making a charitable tax-deductible year-end donation we ask that you consider keeping it local. Your support is needed now more than ever and can positively affect a family in your neighborhood, a co-worker, friend or even a relative that can benefit from one or more of our many programs and services.
To learn more about Dixon Family Services or to read the entire Report to The Community please visit our website. On the website you also have the convenience of making your 2019 year-end donation by credit card.
On Behalf of Everyone at Dixon Family Services, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!