By Maiya Newsome-Edgerly

OAKLAND -- Pertrena Coleman wore a big smile as she watched members of the Teamsters Local 853 women's committee Sisters in Solitary unload three SUVs filled with food, clothing, blankets and other necessities to give struggling families a head start for the holidays.

Coleman is a social services worker who runs the Eastmont Garden of Hope project at Alameda's County Social Services Agency's Eastmont Self Sufficiency Center. On Monday, the center was full of Sisters in Solitary who wheeled in carts packed with much needed supplies that Coleman and several volunteers will distribute to social services clients.

"This big donation has helped us a lot," she said. "We get donations on a daily basis, but we service over 400 people a month. The donations are really needed from the community."

The Sisters in Solidarity, which started two years ago, is among the biggest donors for the Eastmont Garden of Hope project. They raised over $1,200 at their annual membership meeting a couples weeks ago and spent it all at Costco.

"We bought diapers in all sizes." Local 853 member Stacy Alvelais said. "We bought multiple cases of foods, can foods, toothpaste, sweat jackets, gloves, socks, warm blankets, sleeping bags, and pillows for kids. We tried to cover all bases."

Union member Pamela Talavera can relate to the struggling families.

"My main goal is to help people out," she said. "I've been on the street with no home at all, so I do know how that is."

The Eastmont Self-Sufficiency Center offers families resources and services to mend their critical financial conditions.

"People come in and fill out a slip and folks give me their case number. When those two steps are fulfilled they can take anything they see on our racks." said Eastmont Garden of Hope Staff Yolanda Dansby-Patton

On Tuesday, Oakland resident Donavan Vouhan picked up a coat at the center.

"It's a good program and it's has done a lot," he said. "It's a blessing because you don't have too many of these organizations out here."

Seven-year-old Antonio Runda, who came to the center with his aunt, agreed.

"The Eastmont Garden of Hope is a good place because they give us clothes. This is my second time I've came here."

The goodwill swings both ways at the center.

"I'm not rich," said Evon Ufland, who works for the county and helps out with the project. "I have a great job and I appreciate it, but just the fact that I can give back to someone who is in need makes my day everyday."

HOW TO DONATE
Donations are accepted 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Alameda County Social Services Agency, Eastmont Self-Sufficiency Center, 6955 Foothill Blvd., in Oakland. A drop-off site is located at the entrance of the parking garage. For more information, contact Pertrena Coleman at 510-383-5361.