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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Loaves and Fishes - Serving the Homeless

As I was driving by Pleasant Grove High School, an electronic message board running the word "Valenkinds" caught my attention. I thought to myself Valentine's Day is more than a festival of romantic love, but it's also about kindness and friendship. Thinking about this reminds me of a high school friend of mine. She is smart, kind-hearted, witty and super funny. She and her two happy children live in a home that she bought a couple years ago. But things weren't always this rosy and the past was a dark and scary place.

She left her husband after a short marriage to save herself and her daughters. Surrounded by drugs and violence, she had to free herself and her two children. Her family disowned after her mixed race marriage. Without family support, she soon found herself taking shelter at Family Promise that used to be on the Loaves & Fishes campus. Her children enrolled in the Mustard Seed School which is a school for homeless children, while she enrolled at Women's Empowerment. In a short time, she got a job and left the shelter to be on her own.

Unfortunately, not everything goes according to plan. Within a few months, she got laid off. It was a hard time then with the economy tanking and no one was hiring. By sheer determination and strong will, she decided that her children will have a healthy and good life. She managed to get back to school. You would think by now that she would catch a break, yet during her first year of school at a community college, her apartment was broken into and burglarized. They stole the only laptop she possessed which she needed for her graphics communication major. She lost all her work and designs she had saved and subsequently failed the entire semester.

Yet through this hardship, her resolve was not shaken. She managed to enroll into an Occupational Therapy Assistant program at school. She attended school full time, worked part time, and took care of two young babies. She had no money and little time for sleep, but she prevailed. She enrolled for county assistance, Food Stamps, the WIC program, and whatever student loans she can get her hands on. She was awarded scholarships from the MLK Fund and Women's International Soroptimist Scholarship. She finished school and was able to accomplish her goals.

Single parenting is insanely stressful but with all the hardship she endured, she became stronger. Now, she's working two jobs, and raising two smart and beautiful girls on her own. Her girls are happy, clean, fed and doing well in school. She joined in The Spices Of Life charity work to pay it forward to the people who are in the shoes she once walked in.

It was apparently difficult for her to open up to me about a past that she felt ashamed to tell anyone. But her story of perseverance through extreme adversities truly inspires me. I admired her strength and relentless optimism. It's important to know that Loaves and Fishes and their affiliated volunteers played a role in her family's recovery and success. The work that we do has real impact and there are many out there that are currently in her situation. We may never see or hear about the extent of our work, but we know there are needy hungry individuals and families that we can help feed.

So let us continue our work. Please join me on our next homeless breakfast serving scheduled on Thursday, February 16th. You can help serve by participating in one of three ways or if possible, all of the above:

- Cook 20 lbs of oatmeal - Parmjit Sandhu, Loan 
- Cook and Wrap burritos - Sandy Lombella group, Stacy Giacomini, Tamara Warren
- Boil Eggs - Dan Redfearn group

2. SERVING BREAKFAST at 7:15 am - 9:00 am - 10 volunteers (Stacy Giacomini, Sophia McAuliffe Rooney, Kristine Oclarino, Ann, Thuyet, Jenny, Kristin Nebiolini, Rinnie)

3. DONATING Food, Drink, or money to purchase food/drink to serve nearly 300 homeless guests.

Food/Other Items Needed:
1. Breakfast Burritos (meat, rice, beans, cheese) = $180 (funded by Van Thu Vo)

2. Cereal; Hot Oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar and milk = $45 (funded by Yung Huynh)

3. Tangerines = $60 (funded by Maggie and Cynthia)

4. Trail Mix Bars = $47.45 (funded by Yung Huynh)

5. 12 boxes (24 each) Cups of Instant Noodle
= $59 (donated by Cecilia Van (6 boxes); Kelly Phan (6 boxes)

6. Bananas = $45 (funded by Thu)

7. 2 cases (48 cans) V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kristine Oclarino)
2 cases V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kristine Oclarino)
2 cases V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kristine Oclarino)
2 cases V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kristine Oclarino)
2 cases V8 Juice = $21.5 (funded by Kristine Oclarino)

8. Bottles of Water = $40 (funded by c. Duyen)

9. Hot Chocolate Packets = $50 (funded by c. Duyen)

10. 4 boxes of eggs (5 dozens/box) = $24
5 boxes of eggs (5 dozens/box) = $30

11. Dixie Hot cups (donated by Cecilia)

12. Bus Passes (adult $7 each; children $3.50) 
      $100 funded by Kristin Nebiolini
      $100 funded by Hien Nguyen
      $100 funded by Ann

Please let me know if you need a donation receipt so I can notify Loaves and Fishes.

Below are some pictures from our December serving.

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