Stories of the Impact of Charitable Giving
May 26, 2018 11:00AM
● By Melissa Mendonca
Story by Melissa Mendonca
John Moore: Next Steps/My Father’s House
It was a straightforward series of events that led John Moore, 54, to the steps of Pastor Kurt Salierno six years ago. “I was homeless. I’d gotten hurt. I lost my apartment,” he says. A degenerative back injury had become so debilitating that he couldn’t keep up with his job as a chef. Salierno helped Moore through a program called Next Steps and the two stayed in touch once Moore was back on track, established now as a prolific fantasy-science fiction writer.
Despite success with his books, however, Moore found himself in precarious housing again. He returned to his friend, this time with an offer to give back. My Father’s House of Visalia, a residential after-care home founded by Salierno, was in need of an assistant manager. Moore moved in to support the 17 resident men seeking support after rehabilitation services. “Most
of the men who are here have experienced addiction,” says Moore. “This is where they go to re-establish themselves and get back into the community. They’ve all experienced homelessness or prison or jail but now they have a home.” He became the resident manager a few months later.
Moore now has a room at My Father’s House where he continues to write and keeps an extensive book collection while supporting others on their journey. Since opening in January 2017, My Father’s House has supported five men to reach their goals and move on with their lives. Then there’s Moore himself. “I went from being homeless to being a published author, and actually one of the top in my genre,” he says. “I didn’t lose hope. Hope is something that everybody needs and Kurt has dedicated his life to giving the hopeless hope.”
“ I went from being homeless to being a published author, and actually one of the top in my genre.”
– John Moore
Annette Edwards: Visalia Rescue Mission - House of Hope
When Annette Edwards arrived at the Visalia Rescue Mission at age 43, “I was stuck in my addiction and I was broken. My soul was dead.” A 35-year struggle with substance abuse had added up to 10 years in and out of jail, prison and institutions, starting in juvenile facilities. With tremendous gratitude, the now 49-year-old says, “I was led here to the Visalia Rescue Mission and did the program and it changed my life.” She has six years clean and is now a registered addiction specialist at House of Hope, a women’s transitional facility of the Rescue Mission.
Edwards grew up in Porterville, the child of a heroin addict. “We were poor, dysfunctional,” she says. Her own struggles with addiction found her removed from her own children as she went in and out of facilities. “At 43, I decided to change my life,” she says. “I remember coming to the program and wanting to change my life but not really knowing how. They gave me the tools and I met Jesus.” She credits the faith-based emphasis in programming that allowed her to receive the information provided. While in transitional living herself, she was able to work and fund her education in the drug and alcohol counseling program.
Now she works 40 hours a week at House of Hope and is reunited with her children. “I love working with the women because I get to see their lives changed. If it weren’t for the Visalia Rescue Mission and God, of course, I wouldn’t be here,” she says. “Now I have my family back. My kids are in my life. My grandkids are in my life. I have a great relationship with my husband. I have a wonderful home life.” And, she says with great pride, “I love to see the women flourish.”
“Now I have my family back. My kids are back in my life. My grandkids are in my life. I have a great relationship with my husband. I have a wonderful home life.”
– Annette Edwards
Anastasia Ochoa: Restore Habitat for Humanity
The stability of home ownership means many things to Anastasia Ochoa, a 28-year-old mother of four, and her husband David, the proud owner-operator of a relatively new tree-trimming business. The low mortgage payments for their Habitat for Humanity home allowed David to start his business and ended the cycle of moving from rental to rental in search of enough space and sanitation to raise a growing family. “Before coming to Habitat, we lived in three different homes,” she says, offering a litany of problems in each place.
What is most meaningful about this home, however, is the opportunities now available to her children. “It’s a better education,” she says. “We get to spend more time with our kids.” She’s thrilled with the school district her family has moved into. “The teachers are so involved with the kids’ education. I’m very happy and proud of where I live, the home that I have,” she says. That pride transitions to gratitude and a desire to pay it forward to Habitat for Humanity.
While both Anastasia and David have completed their sweat equity requirements to move into their home, they each maintain involvement in the organization.
“Now, every chance my husband gets when he’s not working, he volunteers,” she says. David helps build homes for other families, and Anastasia put in most of her sweat equity hours at Habitat’s Restore retail space, where she was eventually hired to work part time. The job helped her through a round of self-described baby blues and gave her a new network of support. “It’s a good vibe,” she says. “I tell my co-workers they’re family. They’re my Habitat family. They’re stuck with us. Ever since we got the home, we’ve been blessed.”
“It’s a great vibe…I tell my co-workers they’re family. They’re my Habitat family. They’re stuck with us. Ever since we got the home, we’ve been blessed.”
– Anastasia Ochoa
Nicole Lloyd: Court Appointed Special Advocates of Tulare County
Nicole Lloyd knows it doesn’t take grand gestures to make a difference in the life of a child. The 37-year-old Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for youth in the foster system remembers the gestures both large and small that her own CASA made during her childhood navigating the system. “I actually had a CASA when
I was a kiddo so I’ve always known it’s something
I wanted to do,” she says.
“I landed in the system when I was a child,” she says. “I was three and a half. I was in about 30 placements so I was really back and forth. When I was about 8, I finally got a CASA.” What stands out about that relationship: “She followed me wherever I went. I would run away. Regardless of wherever I went, she would always follow me,” she says. “My CASA was always there.” When they met up, it didn’t really matter what they did; it mattered that the CASA was there. “It was often very simple, sometimes just an ice cream cone at McDonald’s. Sometimes we would read together,” she says. “I remember the way she smelled.”
Lloyd is currently poring through the records of her childhood in the system hoping to find the CASA that impacted her life so deeply. In the meantime, she’s supporting a young woman currently navigating the system with all of the spunk and steam Lloyd remembers from her own teenage years. “I try to make it just a normal experience,” she says of her time with her protege. “It’s a lot of coffee, of course. Starbucks. Or going out to eat. She loves sushi.” When it comes time for court hearings, Lloyd prepares formal documents informing the family court judge of her protege’s circumstances and her recommendations. She takes the role of advocate seriously. “There’s just no word to describe how being that person can make you feel,” she says.
"I actually had a casa when I was a kiddo so I’ve always known it’s something I wanted to do.”
– Nicole Lloyd