Odds are you've never heard of the Medford Earth Angels, a small, tightly knit nonprofit foundation that provides assistance to families in the Rogue Valley. But if you belong to one of the 50 families receiving a holiday food box this week, you know them very well.

Odds are you've never heard of the Medford Earth Angels, a small, tightly knit nonprofit foundation that provides assistance to families in the Rogue Valley. But if you belong to one of the 50 families receiving a holiday food box this week, you know them very well.

"We look for people who have fallen through the cracks," said Jerry Ehlers, the foundation's secretary and a Realtor at John L. Scott Real Estate. "People who are just too proud to go ask for help ... sometimes we can step in and offer assistance."

Founded in 2009 by employees at John L. Scott, the nonprofit foundation focuses on families that have been hit hard by the recession, investigates their needs and then provides assistance as best they can, whether that means a food delivery, money for the heating bill or making a car payment. In the two years since its inception, the organization has provided assistance to more than 100 families in the area.

Picking up cases through the grapevine has allowed the foundation to use its limited resources effectively and tailor its assistance to meet each family's needs.

"We all just sort of keep our ears open," Ehlers explains. "It's amazing how you can be out and about in the valley and hear stuff. Somebody's talking about their neighbor down the street who's having a hard time, we investigate it, we look at the challenges they're facing, then we bring it to the (foundation board of directors) and decide whether they fit our profile.

"We don't just throw it out there," he said. "We make sure there's no abuse."

A major aspect of the foundation's work is an emphasis on youth, and priority goes to families with one or more children.

"We hate to see children suffer," Ehlers said. "We're not there to help single people, no disrespect to them or anything, but we try to help people with children.

"There was one case, with a young lady who had a child," said Ehlers. "She had breast cancer. One of our people went to the restaurant a lot where she worked and noticed that she hadn't been there in a while, because she was going through treatment.

"We paid for her car; she was going to lose it. (We) also gave her food for her child. We helped her out because she was in a bad place."

The foundation relies on community donations to survive, and although contributions have declined, Ehlers believes the foundation is doing well despite the economic downturn.

"It seems like people are still willing to give," he said. "We're just so blessed. I don't think anything has let up for us at all, but we're still able to keep the foundation up and running.

"The importance is helping families. Specifically the children. Even when the times are good, it seems like there's always a need."

Reach reporting intern Nils Holst at 541-776-4477 or email holstn@sou.edu.