Home #1: Gary
Gary is in his sixties. His father was physically very abusive, once breaking every bone in Gary's face when he was just nine years old. He ran away from home when he was 12.
As an adult, Gary worked for the same construction company for 30 years. He was a great worker and loved every minute of it until he seriously hurt his shoulders. The resulting surgeries were botched, rendering him disabled.
He’s been living in his truck for the last nine years. He tried for the housing lottery about twenty-five times until finally scoring his apartment. When we first visited him, he said he was so happy to have a roof over his head, even though the apartment was virtually empty.
Gary's living room was bare bones. Now he has a cozy place to hang out and listen to 60's rock music, with his own collection of framed album covers.
Soon after Catholic Charities found this home for Gary, we visited him to measure and plan for furnishing his new space. We chatted in what is now his "new" dining room, complete with a lovely dining table for when friends visit.
Here's Gary's colorful extra kitchen counter. A thoughtful volunteer picked up a framed Van Morrison poster to cap it off.
For the first week in his apartment, Gary had a rollout pad on a cot to sleep on. After our initial visit, we quickly arranged for the delivery one of our 'starter kits' -- including a new mattress, box springs, sheets and pillow. With your additional donated items on Welcoming Day, volunteers converted the space into a handsome bedroom.
A special Welcoming Home surprise - a gift basket created by one of our artsy volunteers - greeted Gary upon his arrival home.
When Gary first entered his newly furnished home, he was amazed. "I never thought it would look like this," he said. Then we got one of the best compliments ever, "This is badass!" he said. He and Yogi took their places on their new hangout spot for a final picture.
Home #2: Elsa
Elsa and her children (aged 6, 3 and 2) recently moved into Home 2. For five years, Elsa experienced domestic violence; eventually escaping with her three young children. She initially stayed with her mother but had to leave because the apartment had a limit on the number of inhabitants. Next, they stayed in a shelter until Catholic Charities helped her find housing. She and the kids are thrilled to finally have their own safe place.
Elsa works full time as a cashier at a gas station. She will go back to school to finish her high school diploma in the fall semester; she plans to get an AA degree that will allow her to pursue her dream of being a physician’s assistant. Elsa told us she chose that career so she can help people in a similar way to how she's been helped. She wants to “be there for people,” she said, like they were for her.
Volunteers outfitted the kitchen with small appliances, utensils, dinnerware and cookware. They carved out a dining nook where the family can now gather for meals.
Elsa is delighted with her new bedroom, which she shares with her 2-year old toddler. Her "corner" is serene, with ample light and coordinated art and linens. Her little boy's area is cheery and safe for him and his favorite cuddle toys.
The two girls, (6 and 3) now share this bright, cheery bedroom. They each have different favorite characters, which were incorporated into their separate spaces. The little wicker desk will be a great place for doing homework and art projects.
In the left photo: a new welcome mat, a tray to help tote packages from the car to the front door and .. note the cool bike gifted by one of our donors; the kids were thrilled to receive it! On the right are four of our phenomenal volunteers who worked so well together to make this transformation happen.
The children were so excited when they saw their new home. At each bed, they scrambled up to check out the goodies awaiting them! The Mom had tears in her eyes when she saw how happy they were.
Home #3: Maria
Maria and her two pre-teen daughters had just moved into their new home. Maria endured 14 years of escalating domestic violence, which often required medical attention. She even reported her husband to the police but no action was taken. When her husband tried to abuse her daughters, she immediately took the girls and fled.
The sisters are bright and talented. They used to take free clarinet, violin and piano lessons when they lived in another state but have not been able to continue here in Sonoma County due to the expense. They both are also soccer stars; they hope to be able to continue when the season starts.
Maria is a caregiver at a senior facility. She receives rave reviews from her clients, their families and from her employer because of her caring personality and upbeat spirit.
Moving quickly from another state with only what they could pack in their car, Maria and her daughters had virtually nothing when they moved into their apartment. This living room is now complete, thanks to your donations of gently used, good quality furniture.
Here's another view at some of the additional furnishing our donors provided. It's now a cozy and welcoming space.
Here are two more "after" photos. Note the cool and colorful dining room set and art work that now fill their home. The kitchen is well stocked and ready for meals they can all prepare together.
The brand new mattresses and sheets (left) are part of our "starter kits'; they were delivered right after the family moved into their home. Then, on Welcoming Home day, we were able to "pop' the room with donated colorful bedspreads, shams, additional furniture, and framed art.
This sunny patio adds extra living space for the family. Thanks to your donations of a patio set and plants, it's now a place to relax after a long day at school or work.
Maria and her daughters were thrilled with the transformation of their home. Maria told us that she is “so grateful” for all the help she has received so far and for having a safe place for her daughters to live. She added "I can't believe how generous strangers have been."
Home #4: Michelle
Michelle and her three children live in Home 4. There are the 12 year old twins (a boy and girl,) and also a 21-year-old son who is on the spectrum. Michelle, too, is a survivor of domestic violence. When her husband became physically abusive with her in front of the children, she knew she had to leave. However, without his income, she was unable to afford a place to live. She put all the family's belongings in storage, then she and her children bounced between friends’ homes for several months.
It was hard for the children to go to a consistent school under this scenario, so Michelle made the difficult decision to have them live temporarily with a friend out of state for a short time. Thanks to Catholic Charities, she was finally able to find an apartment so now she and her children are back together and settled.
Michelle worked as a caregiver before the pandemic. Now she is employed by a government agency that provides in-home support services. She's beginning to rebuild a client base and the additional income that comes with it.
A charming kitchen / dining area for Michelle and the kids to gather for meals was created by our volunteer team. Thanks to generous donors, the kitchen is now well stocked with basic small appliances, dishware and cookware.
This beautiful, donated sectional is a great place for the family to hang out together, share stories of their day or watch a movie. The drapes, floor lamp and coffee table finish off that part of the room.
The family told us they love to work on art projects together. Now they have an "arts and crafts" corner where they can get together and create!
Here's Mom's room, which she shares with her older son. Now they have a comfortable place to rest.
Michelle's twelve-year-old daughter loves skateboarding, so one of our volunteers found and framed a couple of skateboarding prints to decorate her walls. The bright green and white bedspread, white desk and chest of drawers make it the perfect girl's retreat.
The twin brother is into Anime, so we hung some anime-themed art. He now also has a study area in his room. Just what every boy wants 🙂
The donated patio chairs allow family members to enjoy their outside area. They were thrilled with their new bbq!
When the family arrived home they were greeted at the front door with a cheery welcome mat, colorful entry rug and console table. How did Michelle feel about the transformation? "It's really a home! It's really a home!" she said over and over. Her pose says it all! The twins arrived too late to have their picture taken on Welcoming Day, so they posed for another picture the next day. Turns out some 12-year olds like to have their pictures taken more than others 🙂
Once again, our heartfelt thanks to all who helped to make these transformations happen, brightening the outlooks of those who live there. They will never forget your kindness.
The Welcoming Home Team