VISTA — Break-ins are typically not associated with being well-meaning or good-natured.
However, Solutions for Change, the Vista nonprofit combating homelessness and poverty, is defining those terms in their own way.
On Giving Tuesday, or Dec. 3, the nonprofit, along with dozens of volunteers, sneakily entered into the homes of dozens of families to decorate for the holidays and leave gifts and notes, uplifting families on the brink.
Known as “Breaking and Entering,” Solutions for Change Chief Executive Officer Chris Megison said the event, now in its 10th year, brings communities, volunteers and the families together. It’s an act of community, and human, pride, especially in these decisive times.
“We just tell folks we got some maintenance issues and we need people to exit the building for a few hours,” he said. “We had an enormous amount of volunteers come in and deck the place out.”
He said the families are notified they need to vacate the premises beforehand, thus allowing the do-gooders to come in and decorate.
Marie Burris, vice president of human resources and corporate culture at Welks Resorts, said a small team of employees assisted with one of the residences. They worked over the small apartment in two teams over a five-hour period.
The first team, Burris said, did a deep clean of the home, which houses a single mother and her autistic son. The Welks team cleaned every nook and cranny before being relieved by the second team, which decorate with garland, set up the Christmas tree, put out presents and stocked the refrigerator and cupboards with food for weeks.
Welks also supports Solutions for Change with financial donations, but the “Breaking and Entering” event, Burris said, had much more impact on her and the employees.
“We always receive more when we give,” she said, noting it was her first time participating in the event. “It’s an emotional attachment to feel like you’ve made an impact on the life of someone less fortunate. It touches us in such a personal way.”
The event has become so popular with volunteers, people register to help one to two years in advance, Megison added. While the volunteers don’t meet the families, the emotions are still visceral and overwhelming to all involved, he said.
The volunteers cover 32 units at Solutions for Change, although it now has expanded to the intake and outtake access shelter, Megison said.
In addition to the Vista area, he said the event has also spread to some areas in Carlsbad, Oceanside and Escondido.
“It’s something really almost sacred around here,” Megison said. “We noticed these parents were crying. These last few years, we pinpointed something else that is really powerful. It’s a feeling of being a part of and belonging.”
As for the volunteers, it’s just as emotional, he said. Being able to lend a hand to those who are vulnerable is sending a message to those in need they are part of these communities and do belong.
“You’re not just some homeless person or homeless family,” Megison said. “You are part of our community. This has been such an emotional and cathartic for our families and very special for our volunteers.”