The holiday season presents a beautiful opportunity to reinvest in our community. When it comes to local government, Kern County public servants work year-round to provide vital resources to our residents. Even so, the magic that comes with December is celebrated by our workforce, as different departments spread a little extra cheer to members of our community who need it most.

This year, the Kern County Department of Human Services is putting on its 34th annual Holiday Cottage. This program fulfills Christmas wishes for Kern County foster children, allowing the community to purchase presents from their wish lists. The Holiday Cottage has been a staple in Kern County for decades, blessing foster children with gifts. The Department of Human Services plans months in advance to gather foster children’s wishes and fulfill them through the Kern Partnership for Children and Families. If you would like to donate, please visit www.kernpartnership.com.

The Kern County Probation Department also works to provide gifts to local children, focusing on those who are at-risk. Probation officers choose an ornament with a child’s name, age and Christmas wish in partnership with nonprofit Youth Connection. Officers give Christmas presents to 130 at-risk youths, while also celebrating the season with them at a holiday party. During this festive event, gifts are distributed, and pictures are taken with Santa.

Kern County sheriff’s deputies support local children in need through “Shop with a Cop,” an event where deputies volunteer to take kids Christmas shopping with their own money. This generous act blesses many Kern County children not only with presents, but quality time spent with community role models. The Sheriff’s Office also distributes Christmas baskets to local families, making the holiday season a little brighter for those in need.

Kern County Public Health works to combat hunger during this time of year through its Waste Hunger Not Food program. The department works with local nonprofits, public agencies and businesses to distribute fresh food directly to neighborhoods experiencing food scarcity by employing drivers from the Bakersfield Homeless Center Job Development Program. This program offers healthy groceries to residents in need with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. If you would like to donate, or need access to this program, please visit https://kernpublichealth.com/waste-hunger/.

While many departments spread seasonal love to residents through gifts, it’s important to acknowledge this time of year can be challenging when it comes to our mental health. Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services has launched the “You are not alone Kern County” campaign to normalize the holiday blues. Behavioral Health wants the community to know whether it be the expectation of having a “perfect” celebration, financial stressors or loneliness, the department is available 24/7 through its crisis hotline at 800-991-5272, which is available for support year-round.

Kern County departments are always here to assist residents, whether it be the holidays or a regular Tuesday. If you need more information about local services, please visit kerncounty.com.

Ally Soper is the county of Kern's chief communications officer. The opinions expressed in this column are her own.