Concordia College Corps Fellows help deliver dinner with dignity

The Concordia Courier

Concordia Irvine

By Janie Hobbs | 12/6/2022

South County Outreach (SCO) has been providing housing, food and education since 1989. Their mission is “preventing hunger and homelessness by helping people help themselves.” People from all walks of life can attend their food market in Irvine, no questions asked. 

The main programs that SCO provides are their food program, homeless prevention and rapid rehousing. The food program allows each person to choose what foods they go home with, but it’s more than just canned green beans. SCO collects fresh produce from grocery stores and donors alike, allowing people to be mindful of what they are putting into their bodies no matter their financial situation. 

“Instead of thinking ‘what do I have on my shelf,’ it’s thinking about what’s in need,” said volunteer manager Xitlaly Luna. “Instead of donating any cereal, give me your favorite cereal. We want people to feel good about what they pick off our shelves.”

SCO has set up the pantry to act like a real grocery store experience so visitors still have the dignity of “shopping” for their food. They plan on adding a checkout register this next year to really add to the scene. 

It takes many minds, hands and open hearts to keep SCO operating at a brisk hum. Enter Concordia’s #CaliforniansForAll College Corps program to provide highly appreciated assistance. 

Floridel Martinez, South County’s marketing associate said, “This year we’ve started with the College Corps program with a focus on their career development and professional experience.” College students can volunteer at SCO and not only help stop food insecurity, but receive help and benefits for their lives as well. 

Eligible students who participate in the College Corps program receive $10,000 toward their education in exchange for completing 450 hours of service over the course of the academic year.

“[Director of Career Development and Vocation] Mariah Lucas introduced me to the program; my advisor brought it up too, ” said Giselle Rafael, a senior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Communications. The College Corp program offers students a variety of opportunities to serve, but a position at South County Outreach resonated with Rafael. “Giving back, especially in my community, is something that motivates me,” she said. 

“I have been so impressed with our inaugural College Corps Fellows,” said Lucas '15. “They have been patient and gracious as we have launched this new program on a state and campus level. Our fellows are also eager to serve and give back to our community. I am impressed with their willingness to give of themselves in this busy season of life.” 

“We are seeing our students grow in leadership skills, professionalism, and civic engagement - that is humbling to bear witness to,” Lucas added.

“We are seeing the real impact in Orange County and throughout the state as communities are being helped and more college students are on the path to graduate with less debt,” said Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday of California Volunteers, a branch of the governor’s office which implements the #CaliforniansForAll College Corps program. 

Two hallmarks of Concordia students are their positive attitudes and vast capacity for empathy; making Concordia and South County Outreach ideal partners to assist those facing financial hardship in Orange County. 

Along with the food panty, SCO’s Homelessness Prevention Program is designed to find a long term solution for emergency financial situations. And the Rapid Rehousing Program is aimed at providing permanent housing to those in need. They assess the family’s needs in order to best fit them for the program, and hopefully allow them to not only achieve housing stability, but continuously maintain it. 

Considering volunteering or donating over the holiday season? According to Luna, thinking outside the box is crucial; things like black pepper and table salt often go scarce because people don’t think of it when they think of food to donate. 

Luna said “We only purchase 15% of our pantry, the rest is all completely donated.” Your donations can really make an impact. For more information, visit SCO at

For Concordia students interested in earning up to $10,000 for school and living expenses, College Corps applications will open for the 2023/2024 academic year in January 2023. “We will be accepting and placing students on a rolling basis, once spots fill up, they won't reopen,” Lucas explained. “We have two information sessions in January, where students can meet current fellows and potential service sites: January 18 at 10:30 a.m. and at 5 p.m., in the Career Studio - located on the top floor of the Library Arts Building.” 

Interested in becoming a College Corps Fellow? Mark your calendars and attend one of the January 18 sessions as students who attend one of those two sessions will get first access to the application. And learn more about the program here:



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