The winter weather and storms were difficult to experience. The resulting road closures have been a nuisance for some, an inconvenience for others, a burden for some, and devastating for those who live and work in Hemet or Idyllwild and have a daily commute to and fro.

While electric and heating were needed throughout winter, Colleen Meyer, executive director of the Idyllwild Help Center, said the “biggest challenge now is the overwhelming cost of gas.”

The Help Center has clients who have to commute to Hemet even to get to doctor and dentist appointments. What was a 30-minute or 25-mile drive has become nearly three times as long.

Besides gas needs, oil changes, brake repairs and tires become or attenuate people’s financial reserves. “Local people who have never been in before come for gas help,” Meyer said. And the Help Center is running out of gas vouchers.

Even with the roads partially open morning and evening, it is not always practical to go down at 7:30 a.m. and wait for the 6 p.m. reopening of Highway 74, she said. 

“After the Cranston Fire, we recovered quickly despite the road work,” Meyer said.

“A lot more people are coming for food now. We’ve doubled our food numbers,” Meyer said. Usually, the summer is when the Help Center can restock its food bank. Clients can find jobs more easily or work more hours because of the added business in town. But this year has been different.

More demand for food means less food is available. Donors have trouble getting food for the Help Center and it takes longer. Meyer added that she and staff are already beginning to collect and put together school supplies, which is still two months in the future.

“Our partners on the Hill are impacted, too,” she said. Fortunately, some help for the food pantry is coming from Bank of America, Meyer said. 

Meyer understands and suffers just as many of the center’s clients have this winter and spring because she and her family live in Hemet, but both she and her husband have jobs in Idyllwild.

Her family moved here in 1987, she went to Hemet High and has experienced road closures in the past. “But those were just for two weeks; it wasn’t a big deal,” she lamented. “This impact is not lessening; it’s affecting the quality of life.”

This year has taken a financial and psychological toll on her so she can understand how it has affected the center’s clients, too.

Her young children attend Idyllwild School, but with the limited road access, they no longer can stay for afterschool activities. Free time becomes a scarcity. It’s almost bed time when they arrive home and then have to leave the house before 6 a.m. The older child goes to Hemet High and arrives by 6:15 a.m.

Call the Idyllwild Help Center, 951-659-2110, to ask how to help or what supplies are needed.