January 30, 2021
Our First Santa Rosa Welcoming Home!
Saturday morning, January 30, we kicked off our very first "Welcoming" day in Santa Rosa. The beautiful St. Seraphim of Sarov Cathedral was our morning donation drop-off point. With strict COVID-19 protocols in place, volunteers took donations out of donors' cars and organized everything for the two households we'd be setting up that afternoon. Around midday, the phenomenal volunteer movers from Robb & Messer Moving and Storage arrived with the extra large items (sofas, dining tables, etc.) that they had picked up. Everyone pitched in to load up the truck with all the items that had been dropped off for the two families. By an hour later, volunteers had already started work on transforming the two mostly empty spaces into wonderfully livable homes.
We are so grateful to all of you in this generous community who helped to make this happen. You have given these deserving people a day they will never forget and a real fresh start to a new beginning. We hope you enjoy the before and after pictures below and reactions of the families when they see their "new" homes.
Daniella is a single mom of three: two boys, aged 17 and 16 and a 10-yr-old daughter. About four years ago, Daniella's home was destroyed by fire. She then lived in a hotel with her children for three long years, unable to find another place that she could afford. Eventually, the children's father was able to get a place with room for the children so they went to live with him. Daniella moved to a women's shelter and continued to look for her own apartment. Even though she had a steady delivery job, she didn't have a credit history, so landlords were reluctant to rent to her. In the meantime, the delivery job where she was supposed to lift no more than 25 lbs gave her much heavier items to deliver to the point where her back became affected. Luckily, she was able to get a job with a different delivery company, which she loves. Catholic Charities helped her find a one-bedroom rental apartment about a month ago. She was so happy get a place of her own, even though it was basically empty. Her dream is to be able to build up credit history and afford a large enough place where her children can live with her again.
Initially, Daniella's apartment was essentially empty. She just had a mattress, an armchair and a small table. Now she has a lovely home to come back to after a hard day's work. Her living room features a beautiful leather loveseat, leather recliner chair and lovely console for her TV. When her children visit, they don't have to sit on the floor anymore.
After living in a hotel room with three children for so long, Daniella now has her own relaxing bedroom. The beds and linens are brand new–the furniture gently used but in great condition—all thanks to your generosity and compassion for your neighbors in need.
The tiny kitchen table has been replaced with a solid dining room table and chairs, where the family can share meals when they visit.
Daniella was so thrilled to see her transformed apartment when she returned home. When we talked with her a couple of days later, she was so grateful. "Thank you for having faith in me and for helping me to start a new life. This is so awesome. I can't believe this is really my home"!
Family 2: Parents & Their Child
A couple and their daughter had been subleasing a room in a house and paying the rent in cash. Unknown to them, the lessee was pocketing the money and not paying the landlord. The landlord evicted all the residents of the house, including the family. Before they moved out, the lessee threatened the family with grave physical harm. Scared for their lives, they got in their car and fled with only a few belongings. They travelled several hundred miles until they arrived in Sonoma County. All this time they slept in their car—first in a Costco parking lot—and then, when they were kicked out, in a parking lot of a church that let homeless people sleep there and provided restrooms and showers for them. "I never thought I would be laying down a blanket in the back seat of my car for my daughter to sleep on," the father told us.
Eventually, room opened up in a Catholic Charities (CC) shelter. Recently, CC helped them find the apartment where they now live. Dad has a full time delivery job. Mom stays home with their child, whose school has implemented remote learning. They had a loaned table, a couple of chairs, a non-working dresser and a few household items when they moved in.
We first visited the family on Christmas Eve, a couple of days after they had moved in. The mom had spotted a nice Christmas tree near the trash area of their apartment complex. They decorated it to brighten their new apartment and to celebrate their first Christmas in a long time with their own roof over their heads. Right after first meeting them, we gave them a starter kit with new beds, sheets, towels, and basic kitchen items to tide them over until we could fully furnish the apartment. Finally, on January 30th, we finished the job Thanks to your generous donations, they now have a warm, welcoming home where they can relax and enjoy time together.
This was the daughter's room when we first saw it. She didn't even have a blow up bed to sleep on. Look at her bedroom now! A beautiful, girly space in her favorite colors, fit for a princess. When she first saw it, she ran from one part to another squealing "Mommy, Mommy, look!"
Mom and Dad slept on the floor just like their daughter. They had a mostly non-functional dresser someone had given them. After having new beds delivered right away, the room was finished off on "Welcoming" Day with an elegant comforter, nightstands, dresser and armchair donated by their thoughtful and compassionate community.
This area is now a proper dining room where they can share meals. Donors contributed a beautiful dining table, elegant chairs and a couple of bright paintings. A yummy Welcoming Home basket, another thoughtful donation, topped off their "new" table. After so much hardship, what a joy for the family to share time and meals in this cozy space.
The Family in Their New Home
When the family arrived home, the daughter showed them her new cool desk, stocked with colored pens, books and notebooks. Mom marveled at her new comforter in her favorite colors. The family had tears in their eyes as they said goodbye to us. "Thank you so much," they said, "May God bless you all."
Once again, we want to express our thanks to all of you in the Sonoma County community for joining us so enthusiastically in helping these deserving families. With all of the challenges facing our country today, seeing a community pull together like this to help their neighbors in need should give us all hope for the future.
We'll be doing it again on Saturday, March 27th. Stay tuned for details!
With much gratitude,
The Welcoming Home Team