The concept for Conejo Community Outreach (CCO) was born in September of 2015 out of a desire to give back to the community by a group of local moms who all met online through social media channels. The initial idea was to create a Thanksgiving food drive for which volunteers would gather food to distribute to needy families across the region.
“It was really Andrea [Yusim]’s brainchild, dream,” Jessica Weihe said about CCO’s president. “She vetted the idea of doing this to myself, [and board members] Rena [Lane Robles] and Lauren [Shaffer], and we decided to get the ball rolling.”
Through popular Facebook groups like “Moms of Conejo Valley” and “No Drama Mamas,” the women put out the word that they were looking for donations and volunteers. “We wanted to give to families who, for whatever reason…, needed the ability to have a full Thanksgiving meal they could cook without the financial burden, to make a Thanksgiving day without stress,” said Weihe.
The results were positive but unexpected. “We were expecting a lot of food donations like canned goods, things like that, but the overwhelming response was that people wanted to donate funds to help us purchase food,” said Weihe.
In order to be transparent with monetary donations, the women decided to fast-track the process to non profit status. “We said ‘let’s do it. Let’s realize our dream,” said Weihe, who became the group’s vice president.
The Thanksgiving event was a huge success, bringing out volunteers who coordinated drop-off locations, food storage and meal preparation. “We were able to feed 15 families, two that were large enough to receive double serving sizes,” said Robles.
Though the seven-member board plans to meet quarterly to discuss upcoming projects, scheduling can sometimes be daunting, because all of the women have young children at home. “Our first meeting was at [a house] and we all brought our kids,” said Weihe. “We thought ‘this will be fun. We’ll drink wine and eat donuts.’ We ended up running around after screaming kids.” The group currently meets late evenings at local watering holes.
Future goals include establishing a Conejo Community Closet, which will accept donations of clothing and household goods and distribute them to those in need. And beyond that? “We hope to open a family resource center,” said Weihe. “We want to have a place where people can come to use computers, for example, or get information, like resume writing or how to file certain papers.”
This Wednesday, Cronies of Newbury Park is hosting a fundraiser for the group at which a portion of the proceeds will go back to the Conejo Community Outreach. Click here for the flyer.
For more information, to get involved or to donate, go to www.conejocommunityoutreach.com.