Each year, the four Sri Sathya Sai Centers in the San Diego area (North County San Diego, North East San Diego, Point Loma, and San Marcos) fill backpacks with school supplies and distribute them to children in need. In September 2020, the Sai Centers added masks and hand sanitizers to the school supplies and distributed a total of 144 backpacks to the Poway Unified School District, a non-profit agency called Standup for Kids, and the Jamul-Dulzura Union School District. The Jamul-Dulzura Union School District (JDUSD), in particular, came to the attention of the Sai Centers, because the students there lacked the basic necessities for school readiness. What the four Sai Centers in San Diego area did not anticipate was how they would be called upon to play an even greater role in providing relief to the JDUSD community during the impending wildfires that ravaged the community.

Following the backpack distribution, the Director of Pupil Services at JDUSD, Mrs. Trudgeon, approached the Sai Centers for additional help. She explained that many families did not have permanent accommodation, and lived with friends or relatives, or at campgrounds. For kitchen facilities, many used a simple propane stove or a community kitchen. Many did not even have running water. In fact, because of the lack of such amenities, the middle school had a laundry facility for the families to use. Therefore, Mrs. Trudgeon suggested that the students would benefit from having food items provided to them for the weekend.

However, shortly thereafter, the Valley Fire started on September 5, 2020, ultimately devastating 5,350 acres in the community. As a result, the Sai Centers were called upon to attend instead to the immediate relief of affected families in the JDUSD community, who needed blankets, toiletries, gently used clothing for all ages, and even more food than originally anticipated. The Sai Centers of the San Diego area, along with the Region, donated more than 100 blankets and many toiletries, including diapers, shampoo and lotion.

Sai volunteers also donated hundreds of food items such as macaroni and cheese, granola bars and other food. Volunteers also enthusiastically provided clothing, reaching into their own closets to contribute clean, nicely presented clothing. One center member shared that her 16-year-old daughter posted the clothing drive on social media. Her school friends collected and contributed clothing to the clothing supply closet that was set up on the campus for the community members who were impacted by the wildfires. Many recipients expressed how grateful they were for the clothing supplies.

In early October, the JDUSD indicated that school families could use additional dry groceries. Members of all the Sai Centers in the San Diego area contributed goods enough to fill 100 bags with rice, beans, peanut butter, jelly, oil, pasta and pasta sauce. Following safety precautions due to COVID-19, these items were delivered to the school district, which then distributed the bags to individual families and also at two “Stock Your Pantry Drive-Through Event!” held on November 3, 2020 and November 5, 2020. Ms. Trudgeon reported that over 90 families participated in the drive-through. The school district and the recipients were thrilled with the generous gesture and grateful for the ability to feed their families. The Sai Centers partnered with JDUSD for an additional delivery of dry grocery items, toiletries and 120 sweatshirts of various kids’ sizes for Thanksgiving.

Ms. Trudgeon summarized the appreciation of many, gushing in an email, “Thank you so much for helping us put out more good in the world and for having such a positive impact on our families! It has been an absolute joy … to work on this and to provide a little help in a time when so much is needed…”