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We are so excited to announce that we have moved our first family into our new house!
Our family will be able to stay in the house while receiving guidance from case managers.
We were able to capture the moments when the family moved in to the home. One of the children said “I finally get my own room!”.
The day they arrived, the kids scattered and each claimed their rooms. After months of sharing just one room, the family can finally spread out but more importantly take roots in our neighborhood so they can continue to be a stable family no longer facing homelessness.
In April, students from Rollins College volunteered their time to do some landscaping at the home.
To hear more about the family’s journey, click here to check out this video featured in a recent Gala event at Disney.
For the last six week we have been working on birthing your life vision. During this time the program participants created vision boards. The vision board served as a road map to create a plan to achieve life goals. While we created the vision board many of the ladies discovered that their barriers were not external things or people, the barriers that delayed the manifestation of their life's vision was to their surprise, themselves and the perception of what the thought about themselves.
Over the next few weeks after completing the vision board the program participants dug deep to identify what their ‘thing" was. The one “thing” that they had not atoned, forgiven, accepted or processed though in their lives, that kept them from being who them desired to be. Initially no one wanted to dig in but after staff shared transparent situations in their lives, they all opened up. They identified that "thing" and then we had them to write a letter to it, spend a week with that letter and read it every time they had a negative thought associated with it.
The ladies all agreed that each time they read the letter their inner most thing that had held them captive for so long became a little less powerful. Some of the ladies had even been victimized by people in their lives and decided to write them letters. During group the following week, we had the ladies burn those letters, release any negative emotions associated with those "things". Each program participant then planted her own ashes with the healing plant aloe. As the aloe plant takes root and grows, the ladies will have a tangible metamorphosis of the pain released and the healing that has taken place.
This was truly a beautiful experience for them and staff alike, we all enjoyed it!
Lisa Jacobsen from the Orlando Sentinel Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, stopped by to present to us our $23,000 grant check.
The 2015 grants are aimed at alleviating hunger and homelessness and bolstering youth education and child-abuse prevention and treatment programs.
We received the grant for our transitional housing program for homeless women and children.
Tamika Alexander, a warm and articulate mother of five kids, had a stroke at church last year when she was only 35.
She spent two weeks hospitalized, didn't regain normal speech for months and had no insurance. It was terrible timing. Alexander, who was separated from her husband, had been living with her children in a motel.
"I don't know where we would be right now or what we would be doing," Alexander said deliberately in a way revealing her fear of what she would have been up against if not taken in by Rescue Outreach Mission of Central Florida, one of the agencies supported by the Orlando Sentinel Family Fund.
The Sanford-based agency moves families from shelters and motels into transitional housing that sets the stage for self-sufficiency. Rescue Outreach Mission is engaged now with 60 families.
"You're spending more money on the hotel than you would on rent," Alexander said. "But you can't save enough to get out of the hotel."
Several things are clear about Alexander, who has lived in Orange and Seminole counties most of her life.
Alexander, who didn't have many advantages growing up, is insightful and is easy to like, and she's all in when it comes to being a mother who will provide her five children with a running start in life.
But something remarkable about her isn't so evident.
The children are legally but not biologically hers. They came nine years ago by way of a broken relationship between the father, whom she separated from last year, and the now-estranged mother of the children.
"She is awesome," said Asoye' Uhurubey, Alexander's case manager. "Those children have done amazingly."
Recently, Alexander parked a glass cabinet in the dining room of the Maitland apartment arranged by Rescue Outreach.
In it are trophies, ribbons and plaques won by her children at school and church. They are more than prizes; each is a story of a small victory in knitting together her family.
Her 17-year-old son, a natural artist and reluctant leader, is living with his dad right now. "He really listens to his dad, who is a good dad."
Her 16-year-old is 6 feet, 3 inches, achieves the honor roll and is "an awesome big brother."
The 14-year-old is in Navy ROTC, also an honor-roll regular and weight lifter, and has picked a college.
Her 13-year-old reads a lot but loves the outdoors and looks out for his sister, who is 11 and devours books. "If you can't find her, she's reading," Alexander said.
"I believe everybody has a gift and everybody is here for a reason," Alexander said.
Her reason, she knows, is to raise her kids and then teach elementary students. That means taking better care of her health than before the stroke and meeting a long list of short-term requirements.
She's bringing order to her life, something she wasn't exposed to much when younger, and Rescue Outreach is helping with life skills, financial strategies and education opportunities. Alexander, now employed in food services, will transition out of the agency's care this spring.
The months in the motel on the verge of out-and-out homelessness were nerve-racking.
"You know there are other families in that situation, but you don't know the abundance until you are," she said. "As I began to get better and regained my speech, I would go out each day and find ways to get my family out of this situation.
"You can't just sit and wait for something to happen."
Sanford Herald, article by Susan Wenner, Special to the Herald, posted October 27, 2014
Her desire to assist the homeless to self-sufficiency by providing resources and shelter has impacted the lives of many not only locally but those that have moved to other areas of the country.
The organization received grants totaling $700,000 that enabled the group to remodel and improve the living conditions and surroundings of not only the men’s facility but also the women and children’s center. With added space and a new computer lab to apply for assistance and jobs, workers are able to begin serving more while also assigning a case worker to guide the resident in gaining employment and housing to begin a new chapter in their lives.
Picture shows Sylvia Drake Izquierdo and Nahir Solis in front of the Rescue Outreach building. (Herald photo by Susan Wenner)
West Volusia Beacon Online, article by Pat Andrews, posted May 28, 2014
While doing good for one’s community is its own reward, getting recognition for the group’s efforts and financial assistance is satisfying, too.
Members of non-profit community agencies work for little or no pay to provide services and improve their communities. Often, they work under the radar of public attention.
On May 30, however, representatives of six of them came together at DeBary Golf and Country Club, along with representatives from two Sanford agencies, to be treated to a breakfast and awarded $1,000 grants.
The treat came from Wells Fargo, through its Community Partner Program, now in its sixth year. Grantees are nominated by local bank-branch managers and employees in their communities within the district, which covers West Volusia and the Sanford area in Seminole County.
Wells Fargo District Manager Sheena Tapia opened the seventh annual presentations. She explained the rationale behind the awards: "We're only as successful as the communities we serve."
Branches within the community nominate recipients, giving bankers who know the local organizations a say in the process, and representatives of those branches made the presentations.
The winners are:• DeLeon Springs Community Association — As it did the previous two years, the DeLeon Springs Community Association received the first check. Former DeLeon Springs branch manager and current "Wells Fargo at Work" representative Matt Cooksey presented the $1,000 check to Community Association Secretary Amy Munizzi. The Community Association has improved DeLeon Springs through rezoning, petroleum contamination cleanup and is sponsoring twice-a-year festivals.
• MainStreet DeLand — DeLand Main branch manager Ryan Carney presented the check to MainStreet DeLand President Karen Puglisi, noting the improvements MainStreet DeLand has brought to its Downtown over the years.
• Florida United Methodist Children's Home — Deltona Plaza Store Manager Steven Mariec presented the check to Children's Home Vice President of Development Mark Nelson for the work the Children's Home does with children who need a home and help to prepare themselves for life.
• Community Life Center Outreach — Deltona-Providence branch representative Janice Ressy presented the check to Pastor Ben Stillwell-Hernandez of the outreach center, which helps people who need food and other assistance. Around 20 percent of the clients are homeless, Stillwell-Hernandez said.
• My Angel with Paws Inc. — Gibbs Plaza-Deltona branch representative Tom Langer presented the check to My Angel with Paws organizer Valerie Ford. The organization trains and provides service dogs to children and adults who have physical disablities.
• Boys & Girls Club of Volusia-Flagler — Lake Helen branch manager Richard Domroski presented the check to Boys & Girls Club President Joe Sullivan, who supervises operations at eight clubs in the area. The clubs teach children skills to succeed in life and be leaders in their communities.
• Mid Florida Community Services Inc. — Orange City Store Manager Maggie Pagan presented the check to Amy Thomas of Mid Florida Community Services, noting the work the organization does to help children, especially in Orange City, with the Head Start program and other services.
• Rescue Outreach Mission of Central Florida — Sanford Store Manager Raquel May presented the $1,00 check to Executive Director Andrew Powell of Rescue Outreach Mission, which provides meals and shelter to local homeless people and provides resources to keep others from becoming homeless.
• Sanford Crisis Pregnancy Center — Sanford 17-92 Store Manager Brandon Libema presented the check to Cindy Thomas of the pregnancy center, for the work the center does to offer women in crisis alternatives to abortion.
Read more about Wells Fargo community partners programs online at www.wellsfargo.com.
SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Seminole County's only emergency shelter for needy families is set for a major expansion.
Channel 9's Bianca Castro got a look at how the changes will benefit the families who have nowhere else to go. Basic household chores aren't new for former homeowner Christy Skinner-Smith. She and her family lost their home soon after they lost their jobs. "Never, never in a million years did I ever think that we would end up in this position," said Smith.
They ended up here at the Rescue Outreach Mission in Sanford. The facility is getting $700,000 in federal dollars to expand and help the growing number of homeless families. Officials said that there are 859 Seminole County families with no home – 20 percent more than last year.
"What we see today are families, men women that are working, but they're working full time, part time, but the money that they're making is not enough to sustain themselves," said Andrew Powell of the Rescue Outreach Mission. Currently, the center uses every square foot it has. The family dorm rooms are small and become cramped. The computer lab also serves as the case manager's office.
Powell said the money will be used to build a new addition, equipped with more office and counseling space. They will add 10 beds to their current 80. Powell said on average, families stay two to three months until they can get into a place of their own. Skinner-Smith said her family is almost to that point. "It's a great program. We would be in the woods if we weren't here," said Skinner-Smith.
The most recent additions include a playground and learning center, as well as renovating the children’s playroom, all of which are inside the Open Door Shelter for Women and Children. Rescue Outreach Mission has been providing services to the homeless for 25 years and continues to find new and innovative ways to serve residents.
The most recent additions include a playground and learning center, as well as renovating the children’s playroom, all of which are inside the Open Door Shelter for Women and Children. Executive Director Ernest Hamilton said the updated facilities are an attempt to keep up with the times. “We wanted to make it suitable for today’s children,” he said. “It’s just a change in the time. “I’m sure five years from now, we will see things grow and change as we move forward. Just like any university or business, it always changes and this is going to be forever. We’re changing to meet the needs of the community.”
The modern playground in the backyard of the Open Door Shelter was refurbished last year by Leadership Seminole, which raised $75,000 for materials. Wayne Weinberg, president of Leadership Seminole, said they were happy to help.
“It puts smiles on each and every one of our faces,” he said. “It’s pretty cool; it’s great stuff. I tested it. I started swinging on it.” Tanishia Hunter, a case manager in the women’s unit, said the former playground, which was an old, wooden set-up, was not being utilized. The replacement, she said, has “livened” the children, who play there at least three times a week.
Hunter said she enjoys seeing the residents socialize. “It’s just good to see them come out together, not just one person sitting out here,” she said. “But all the families come out here and socialize and they have fun. It’s really good. This has really just made things better here for the kids.”
Four brand-new Dell computers are installed on individual tables and equipped with headphones for shelter residents to use the Internet for communication with family or to find jobs. “All of our residents had to go down the road to the library to use the computer and I said, ‘You know what, it would be really good to have something here onsite,’” Hamilton said of the shelter plugging into the computer age. In addition, residents are able to use the Access program to apply for food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance. Hunter said due to the time limits for computer use and crowds at libraries, they were motivated to do provide their own. “We just wanted to make it easier for them to access what they needed here,” said Hunter.
The shelter received a $10,000 donation from Symantec to cover costs affiliated with the multimedia room, but Leadership Seminole Class 19, a group that provides volunteer services to the community, donated the paint, flooring and furniture.
Class 19 also assisted the shelter with remodeling the playroom. “It’s not like your regular at-home [playground],” Hamilton said. “It’s like the city park, county park kind of playground. It is beautiful…. [It] has the state-of-the-art, brand-new things in there for the kids to play with. It looks like a little classroom.” Hunter explained that prior to the modifications being made, the playroom only had a table with chairs and that that the room was falling apart.
“They made it really look like a VPK [voluntary prekindergarten] room for the kids to come in and have so much fun and help develop their mental education. They love that room,” she said. Now, the room is packed with all different types of dolls, toys, games and even a kitchen for kids.
Chantal Brazell has been living at the Open Door Shelter with her two children, Aliyah, 2, and Walter, 4, for about a year and said the children love the playground. “They really enjoy it,” she said. “They like playing, like getting stuff to learn and keeping active.”
Walter said his favorite activity on the playground is the tire swing, and Chantal said Aliyah’s preference is the slide. “I have lots of fun,” Walter said. “It’s a really good place,” Chantal said. “They are very helpful. They help you get on your feet in the right way. They are positive people. They try to keep you positive. They try to keep you on the right track and try to help you the best way they can.”
Hamilton said there is more work ahead. “My next vision is phase two,” he said. “If things go the way we plan, we look for this office right here to be the learning center for the men. But right now, they can use next door.”
Currently, there are 35 men, six single women, six families and 14 kids living at Rescue Outreach Mission. Hamilton said they are continuously getting more and are always full, serving 6,000 meals per month. But he wants to do more. “We hope to expand our services even broader in the next year or two. A lot of growth is happening,” he said. “We are one of the most employed counties in Florida. So when you think about Seminole County, you think money and you don’t think poverty.”
But he said that a homeless person can be anybody and no longer fits any stereotype. “We are watching the face of homelessness change,” he said. “The caliber of the person who lives here today is different. It’s not just the alcoholic or the drunk… It’s families that are coming in here now needing help.” Hunter had similar sentiments and said she has developed a rapport with the women and children.
“It’s not the bum that you see on the street holding the sign saying, ‘Will Work For Food.’ It’s the person who has the degree and who had a good job and had a good car,” Hunter said. “Homelessness has really changed. They are good people. We all are good people.” Sylvia Izquierdo is the administrative director and daughter of Mother Weaver, who had the vision to create Rescue Outreach Mission. Izquierdo said they are constantly working and that she thanks God for all the successful conversions they were able to make. “We are just proud to be here; proud to be working in here,” Izquierdo said.
John Loso spent his summer a little differently than most children his age. After a successful toothbrush charity drive at his elementary school in May, the 11-yearold decided to continue his efforts during the summertime. John, of Lake Mary, collected more than 800 toothbrushes at Wicklow Elementary School after he was inspired by an episode of “60 Minutes” regarding the growing number of homeless children in Seminole County. Now his goal is to collect 400 toothbrushes, along with tubes of toothpaste and containers of floss, and to accomplish it all before school starts.
“It’s something that I can help the community with because there’s a lot of homeless people,” John said. “And it’s not just lazy people that don’t pay the bills or anything; there’s kids out there. It seems like a lot more kids than adults actually.” Trace Trylko, chair of the Seminole Action Coalition Serving Our Needy (SACSON), said the numbers in Seminole County, especially Sanford, are extremely high. “Of Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, Seminole County has 25 percent of the homeless of those three," he said. “And a good number of those are in the Sanford area.”
Of the homeless population in Seminole County, 17 percent are veterans and 40 percent are women and children. The number of homeless students in the Seminole County Public Schools system has increased to more 1,700 in this past year. A majority of these young people live in various homes for short periods of time, with no place to call home, Trylko said. Because there is not enough room in homeless shelters, many of them live in motels. Trylko is also a member of the board for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of All Souls Catholic Church, where the John family attends and where the community can drop off contributions. The John family also has a partnership with a Firehouse Subs in Lake Mary.
Firehouse owner Suzanne Kelly said many people have asked her to support their cause, but John’s mission was something she was interested in promoting. “We really try to partner up with good causes for our local area.... We try to do what’s right,” she said. “We knew it was a nice thing to do.” Janice Plescia is a member of a local group called the Bonkel Club and visited John and his mother at the Firehouse Subs last week to provide them with buckets filled with 250 items gathered by the 13 members of the organization.“We all decided right away, it was something we’d like to support because it’s a very worthwhile cause,” Plescia said. “With Seminole County as it is with the homeless, all of us should be doing something to help and this is just a small way that we can help. But I think it’s a wonderful enterprise that he has. And for John to have thought of it and to come up with the idea and to move forward with it is a wonderful thing.”
John thanked Plescia and three other group members for contributing the supplies, and they replied with sentiments such as, “Keep up the good work.” Plescia, Trylko and others have said they are amazed at the work John has done at his young age. “He’s 11 years old and he decided to do this on his own,” Trylko said. "What more will he do? It's exciting to see what more he will do. How will he make a difference? What future leader will he become? And I credit his family because they want to have a heart for this issue at a time when, honestly, not everyone wants to have that heart.”
John's mother, Susan, said she is proud of what her son has accomplished. “He has a big heart,” she said. “He just wants to help people. He’s going to go far. He really is.” John said he plans to conquer more ways to help the homeless and that other projects are in the works. “[Mom] tells me to slow down; finish one thing at a time because I’m already thinking about the next one,” he said. John said he is happy with the work that he’s done in order to assist the homeless children of the county, saying “One kid can make a difference.” As of Wednesday, July 27, the John family raised 2,046 items and hope to continue surpassing their target before the Aug. 15 deadline. All aggregated items will be distributed to Pathways to Home and Rescue Outreach Mission. John and his mother paid a visit to the Rescue Outreach Mission homeless shelter on Thursday to donate items, which included one toothbrush, one tube of toothpaste and one container of floss in each package, to each child in the home.
Chantal Brazell has been at the shelter with her two children, Aliyah, 2, and Walter, 4, for about a year. She said she was thankful for John and his family to donate the toothbrushes to her kids. “It’s good that they donated toothbrushes. My kids love to brush,” said Brazell. “I think it’s a good thing that people who donate toothbrushes can teach kids how to keep their mouth clean. It’s important for them to keep their breath smelling good and have healthy teeth.”
Rescue Outreach Mission Executive Director Ernest Hamilton said he is very appreciative of John’s efforts because something as small as a toothbrush is so big for them those who need them. “It’s amazing,” Hamilton said. “That’s good teaching from his parents; already teaching him philanthropy and how to give. In this time, our operating costs are extremely high. More people come in than we can [help] but God makes a way and we are still here.”
Another child has come forward with a mission to help Sanford with its homeless after viewing the episode of “60 Minutes” documenting the homeless of Orlando.
Saryn Potter, a 7-year-old from DeBary, was so touched by the “60 Minutes” coverage that she decided to help.
“I wanted to help my community, and I saw the little film about homeless people and it really made me sad,” she said. “So, I really did want to help the homeless shelter.”
What hurt her the most, she said, was seeing families living in the outdoors with no food or toys.
A lover of cooking, Saryn – 6-years-old at the time – decided in Dec. 2010 that she wanted to publish a cookbook entitled “Cooks on a Mission,” with one goal in mind: to raise and donate all proceeds to the Rescue Outreach Mission, the homeless shelter in Sanford.
Her mother Susan said Saryn was very “insistent” on taking on the project.
“She just kept after it. So, I said, ‘Let’s do it if that’s something you really have a heart for. Let’s see what we can do.’ I had no idea how it would turn out or if it would be a paperback that we just staple together,” Potter said.
Potter suggested they donated the proceeds to the pregnancy center that she volunteers at, but said Saryn was set on a homeless shelter, so she helped make her daughter’s dream come true.
“We just asked friends and family for their favorite recipe,” Potter said. “And once we got them in, we started organizing them in our cookbooks.”
Potter explained that Saryn selected a template design for the front cover and font style from multiple options, and chose the title. The finished product is embellished with a fork on the cover, and the text throughout the book is in script. Each recipe entry credits the person who provided it.
According to Saryn’s mother, the original goal was to publish 200 books, which the Potter family would pay for. “She sold the 200, then the Rescue [Outreach] Mission sold 200 more,” Potter said.
Friends and family became instant fans of the idea, and demanded copies of the book.
“There were a lot of shocked people, weren’t there?” Potter asked her daughter. “They were surprised that someone so little could do something.”
Through social networking websites, Potter promoted the sale of her daughter’s book. At $10 each, books were bought and shipped to various cities, including in Texas, Ohio and Alaska.
“Facebook has been amazing,” Potter said, explaining that once she informed people via status, others began sharing the information and it circulated throughout many Facebooks.
“I assumed it would originally be to people we knew, but then like I said, once it went on Facebook, friends were like, ‘I’m going to post this story myself.’ So, they would post it as their status, and then people just kind of kept doing that,” Potter said.
Potter contacted the Rescue Outreach Mission Executive Assistant Sharon Whitley, and informed her of Saryn’s plan.
“I immediately just thought it was amazing. And not only an amazing opportunity, but the fact that somebody at Saryn’s age – at 6-years-old then – would just have the insight to want to do something to reach out and help others,” Whitley said. “I just think it was so compassionate and so meaningful.”
Whitley explained that there are 1,700 homeless children in Seminole County, an amount that may not be exact due to the large number of families that have not spoken up yet. “So many families don’t want to admit their status because they are afraid DCF will take their kids away,” Whitley said. “It’s just a perpetual ongoing problem.”
According to Whitley, many people – even children in addition to Saryn – have recently approached the shelter wanting to help. Whitley said she believes the “60 Minutes” piece it “played a big role in that because it really brought to light” the issue of homelessness within the county.
This is not the first time they have seen an act of kindness from a child to the Mission. This past summer, 11-year-old John Loso’s mission was to raise over 2,000 toothbrushes to benefit the shelter. He also was motivated by the “60 Minutes” piece. One by one, the youth of Orlando have been coming forward after watching the documentary.
“The reality of it is, the Mission is the only shelter, other than the domestic violence shelter – which is a different demographic – but between the two shelters, it’s probably about 158 beds total,” Whitley said. “There are 1,700 homeless kids out there. That means they are living in cars; they are living in woods; they are in hotels if their mom and dad make enough money to afford a room for the night.”
Whitley said the biggest problem most families face is childcare because many are going without it and those who do have it are unable to afford the other necessities.
“How is that mom going to actually be able to go out and find a job? And if she does get a job, she ends up getting seven or eight dollars an hour. She’s paying more in childcare than she’s bringing home,” she said. “So then she can’t afford rent, she can’t afford utilities and those things. So she’s got to rely on other resources for that and the resources are limited.”
Whitley said that she and the chef at the Mission use the cookbook, which includes appetizers, main dishes and desserts. At the end of the book, there is a section on how to fold napkins, which Saryn maintains she likes very much.
Her favorite recipe, she said, is the peanut butter pie. “I haven’t made it,” she said. “It just sounded pretty good, and I love peanut butter.”
Whitley said that Saryn was honored for her cookbook at an event at the shelter on Oct. 26.
“She has always had that kind of heart,” Potter said. “It’s been neat to see it grow. When she first came [to me], it didn’t surprise me, of course, because that’s just her personality. It really is what God has gifted her with.”
Saryn is a second grader at The Ivy Hawn Charter School of Arts. She said she plans to continue publishing more books in the future, primarily for children, but states she doesn’t know if she wants to do it for a profession because she still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.
“Last time, it was an ice cream truck person,” her mother joked. “I guess it humbles me that as adults, we so often don’t step up and do the things that obviously we can do,” said Potter. “It doesn’t take a lot or something grand. If each person could just do their little part, it really does make a difference.”
Orlando - Hundreds of working homeless families across Central Florida are looking for a place to weather Tuesday night’s freezing temperatures.
Inside downtown Orlando's Salvation Army facility, organizers said they’re expecting to take in more people than they really have room for.
Officials said entire families, women and their children will fill up the bunk beds.
Yolanda Valentin said she and her two children had very little options as to where they would spend the night forecast to be coldest night so far this winter season.
“It was either this or just walk the streets all night with my kids and I don’t prefer that,” said Valentin.
Valentin and her children are staying at the Rescue Outreach Mission in Sanford. They got in right before the first big drop in temperatures Monday night.
“I was lucky I got here right in time before I got stuck in the cold, so thank God for that.”
A mother, struggling to put food on the table, she couldn't afford to find a warm place to stay.
Now shocked at the unexpected change in the weather, she's more than thankful her children will be safe and most importantly, warm.
“We'd be freezing, pneumonia, in the hospital probably, I thank God this place is here because if it wasn't for this place I'd be in the streets right now,” said Valentin.
The Salvation Army is planning on more than 100 families there, and are already making accommodations for at least a few dozen more.