Sometimes you just need an ally.
Mentorship is one of Elk Grove HART’s core values. Guests in HART’s Grace House and Meadows House transitional homes are each paired with a mentor from the Elk Grove community who supports them through the challenges of finding work and housing.
Frank Lucia, a co-founder of HART, worked in the Elk Grove Unified School District for 36 years including 16 as a high school principal. Lucia assists his fellow co-founder, Debbie Schoeneshoefer who coordinates HART’s mentorship program. He says the mentoring partnerships are essential. “We’re not just interested in sheltering people and then moving them on. The mentoring program helps us bring people to a self-sufficient behavior or attitude.” HART’s mentors make a major difference in the lives of our guests.
From the very beginning, these partnerships have enabled guests in HART’s transitional housing to gain confidence and life skills. Lucia explains that each person who moves into Grace or Meadows House must agree to participate in a mentorship. “The reason for that is you’ll be transitioned out of the house and when that happens, our goal is that you’ll be in a better place and that you’ll be able to start making wise decisions without a lot of handholding.”
Since its inception, the mentorship program has worked well. “The very first person that we took into the program was an individual that was in his early 40s. He had hearing issues. He was living in his car that had broken down, and he wasn’t working,” Lucia says. “I spent some time with Gary. Through some interview coaching, he obtained a job in town.” Lucia still sees him on a regular basis. “Gary has gone from a broken down car with no money to paying his own rent. He has his own apartment. He pays his own bills and he’s working full time, and he has a car that functions. He may not have even survived without HART.” Gary is just one of many HART success stories.
Often, guests from Elk Grove HART’s Winter Sanctuary will transition into Grace or Meadows House. “It’s definitely a pathway,” says Lucia as he describes two women from EG WINS who recently obtained full-time jobs in Elk Grove with the help of their mentors.
“The challenge with the program from day one has been finding the right people to serve as mentors,” he says. HART is always in need of volunteers. What does a good mentor need? “Availability, communication skills, and most importantly, patience. A lot of our guests just need somebody to talk to,” Lucia says, “and so that’s how it begins. We encourage the mentor to let that person talk. Trust is a huge factor.” He explains that it’s important that mentors try to set aside their own feelings, and just say “I’m walking with this person, I’m going to try to get them to a better place.” Mentors meet regularly and receive training from HART in partnership with a local psychologist and Sacramento Self Help Housing.
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Elk Grove HART through our website: elkgrovehart.org/volunteer/volunteer-form.
By Fred Bremerman, EG WINS co-coordinator
The sixth year of Elk Grove HART Winter Sanctuary (EG WINS) has just wrapped up. After 12 weeks caring for our homeless friends, I ask myself: does EG WINS really make a difference?
I see part of the answer in comments from EG WINS guests:
“I’m very appreciative. It keeps me warm, gives me a nice, little place to sleep instead of inside my car, food, occasional socks, free haircuts and gift cards. It also allows me to use the restroom without feeling like an animal.” – William
“Thank you so much. Words cannot express my level of appreciation & I look forward to giving back. These are the things that make it possible for people like me to move forward and have the growth necessary to accomplish stability again.” – Mecca
EG WINS also makes a difference in the lives of our volunteers:
“We get to help people that in your normal course of your day, you might be able to donate some cash, but you can’t really help somebody out and meet them and talk to them. So, it offers that for me that I can actually visit with the people that come in and hear their stories and help as I can. It’s fabulous.” – Phyllis
“I think everybody needs a break every once in a while. It’s our responsibility as people that have a little bit of the upper hand to reach back, to help our brothers and ladies to get back on their feet, so they can feel good about themselves.” - David
I also see the difference EG WINS makes in the unique individuals we serve. This season 64 different guests participated in EG WINS. 46 were men and 18 were women. The youngest was 21 and the oldest 70. Among our guests, we counted a CRC student, a few grandmas, a college professor, a Marine veteran, a cruise ship chef, and an Apple employee. I find myself amazed at each life story and the will power of guests to succeed.
Finally, I see the difference EG WINS makes for the churches which join together to make EG WINS possible. Occasionally things don’t go as planned, as evidenced by the sewer issue this year at Living Water Church. The sewer back-up flooded the church (and surrounding businesses like Mel Dog’s Diner), requiring a new space to host our guests on less than 24 hours of notice. What began as a full-stress-moment turned into a blessing as leaders at Harvest Church, LifePointe Church, and Soaring Oaks Presbyterian Church opened their doors, and hearts, to welcome EG WINS guests on short notice.
I’m smiling as I think back on this season of EG WINS. The guests and volunteers, the laughter and tears, the victories and setbacks. At times it was three steps forward and two steps back. Other times it felt like being stuck in neutral. Through it all, I saw the Elk Grove community fabric being strengthened as we learned to love our neighbors – especially those without a place to call home. It reminds me why I want to do this again next year.
by Debbie Schoeneshoefer
Elk Grove HART Co-Founder and Board Member
I wouldn’t have thought to find humor in a DUI court, but couldn’t help but laugh as Gracie recounted the story: Four cop cars had chased her, and a helicopter tracked her from overhead – yet she was completely unaware. As she pulled her car to a stop at the grocery store, a gentle hand reached out to help her out of the car. Looking up, she realized the hand belonged to an Elk Grove police officer. That gesture had a sobering effect on her.
Not much time has passed since that day in DUI court. I am so proud of Gracie. She is no longer drinking thanks to the help of the doctors at Dignity Health and her own determination to “not be that person.” It hasn’t been an easy journey, but it is one that gives her the hope of being able to see her grandchildren again. She reconciled with her children who had grown weary of her chaotic behavior. She took ownership of her actions.
A successful 6 months at the Grace House and participation in Uplift People of Elk Grove has helped Gracie to see that she is more than just the bottle she crawled into each night. She is sober, living on her own, and confident that she can have a better life.
The hand of that Elk Grove police officer helped to save Gracie’s life, and a stay at the Grace House helped to change her heart. HART is committed to helping those that have given up on life find hope and purpose again. We are so proud of you, Gracie!
Each Tuesday and Saturday, Elk Grove United Methodist Church opens its doors -- and its showers -- to anyone in need.
When the church rebuilt after a 2015 fire, existing restrooms were converted to include showers. “Even before we had the fire in the education wing,” says Ruth Reynolds, who organizes the shower ministry, “we recognized that [showers were] an issue for the homeless.” Through the dedication of a group of volunteers -- both from Elk Grove United Methodist, and the community at large -- the shower ministry has thrived since 2017. Reynolds says one of the joys of the ministry is meeting so many people from Elk Grove. Guests waiting for showers often chat with volunteers.
“One of the things that’s been nice while people are sitting and just waiting for their turn is just talking to them. You know, people come from all different walks of life, and it could be you or I that ends up in the same kind of situation. It’s really striking, and it amazes me how resourceful and brave people are.”
Showers are available every Tuesday and Saturday from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM. “We’ve got enough slots for 6 men and 6 women because they’re 20-minute slots over two hours,” Reynolds says. She adds that sometimes the number of women or men will vary, in which case they can still easily be accommodated.
“The guests that use it are very appreciative that it’s available to them,” says Reynolds. The shower ministry works in conjunction with other resources for the homeless at Elk Grove United Methodist: “We dovetail it with Tuesdays, [when Yakov] the Homeless Navigator is there, and on Saturdays, we’ve got the [free] community breakfast.”
There is interest in the ministry expanding its number of days per week. Reynolds says there is certainly a need. “I’ve had people request it. It’s just a matter of having solid volunteers.”
Reynolds says she can always use more help: “I’m always looking for volunteers who are either a regular, one day a month [volunteer], or on call.” Volunteers need to be at least 18 years of age, and available one Tuesday or Saturday a month from 8:45-11:15 AM. If you are interested in volunteering or finding out more about the EGUMC shower ministry, contact Ruth Reynolds through the church office at (916) 686-8303, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everyone smiles in the same language, but it's easy to take good oral health for granted...
...unless you're homeless.
We know that remaining cavity-free is important, but research and statistics emphasize the significance dental hygiene plays in our overall physical health. Unfortunately, one of the common challenges with the homeless is having resources like regular checkups available.
But thanks to Elk Grove Dental Group and Orthodontics, seven individuals received dental exams, cleanings, restorations, and a huge boost to self-confidence!
The generous staff of the Elk Grove location, which is affiliated with Pacific Dental Services, held its annual Smile Generation Serve Day, an event focused on giving back to the community by providing dental work at no cost to those who otherwise can't afford it.
Elk Grove Dental Group offers reasonably-priced services in a convenient location, using advanced proven technology to keep smiles looking their best. They pride themselves in service, with same-day crowns and even orthodontics among the many procedures they have to offer.
Office Manager Alexandra Wilson worked closely with Elk Grove HART board member Debbie Schoeneshoefer to fine-tune details and provide excellent patient care. Smile Generation Serve Day was held this past Saturday, August 4, and because of the generosity of these professionals, and the assistance of local volunteer Amy Mendoza, seven smiles have been brightened!
Dr. Inaksh Johal chats with one of the patients participating in Smile Generation Serve Day
Repulsion or compassion—it was a decision I had to make in a split second. His feet were blistered, with fresh wounds oozing. He wanted to try on the new shoes donated from the Elk Grove Church of Christ. The guests at HART's Winter Sanctuary had been waiting for weeks for these promised shoes and he didn't want to miss out. He wanted them on his feet. Now.
"You're next in line for a shower. Why don't you wait to try them on?"
But he was adamant, "Someone else might take them. Please." His desperate plea won me over. Fresh socks and bandages didn't make sense before taking a shower, so I carefully put the shoes on his feet, trying not to hurt him. His face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. "Can I really have these?"
Disbelief was common during the 12 weeks of HART's Winter Sanctuary. Why would people care enough to give out new shoes, feed delicious hot meals, drive in the pouring rain and then pick everyone up at dawn, to hang out with them, to become friends.
Repulsion or compassion is often a decision many of us must make every day when encountering a homeless person. Love or hate, selfishness or selflessness. Lives are always changed during our 12-Week Winter Sanctuary, because over 1,000 volunteers choose selfless compassion. Thank you volunteers of Elk Grove HART's Winter Sanctuary! You have made Elk Grove a better place.
Dear Friends of Elk Grove HART,
Wow...What an AMAZING first Big Day of Giving event we had! Thanks to you, we have received $16,470 in donations during the 24-hour giving frenzy! Funding for our two transitional homes, the Grace House and the Meadow House, is now guaranteed for over 4 months.
We are overwhelmed with gratitude for your generosity, giving where your heart is...to HART!
Our Elk Grove Nonprofit Roundup event was well attended, and filled with excitement. Many of you stopped by to learn about the variety of excellent organizations right here in our city. As we tallied up the donations, we were awestruck by the total. Our organization started small, but we are mighty...and so grateful for your continued support.
We expect to be distributing the Gilly's Car Wash coupons next week for those of you that donated $25 or more. Don't forget, it's a $16 value, and when you redeem your coupon, HART will receive an additional $8 from Gilly's.
A special thank you to board members Linda Strom and Debbie Schoeneshoefer for their coordination efforts, and to Project R.I.D.E. for inviting us to be part of the Nonprofit Roundup event.
And, sometimes they will drink. She was thirsty, parched from the struggle that had been her life for too many years. She wanted a different life for her 13-year-old son and herself but couldn’t seem to get out of a cycle that was more like a tornado. No drugs, no alcohol, just poor choices none the less. She was done and ready for change, thirsty for it.
She worked hard to meet her goals while at the Meadow House for families. Her part-time job went to full-time. She saved money each month, even amid expensive car repairs, but she was determined. Determined to have a better life, to set a good example for her son.
This week they proudly moved into their very own treasured home. A dream come true through her hard work, with the help of HART’s Meadow House for families. The stability she longed for was now a reality.
Elk Grove HART provides $3,500 per month to operate the Meadow House for homeless families and the Grace House for Homeless singles. Please consider partnering with us to support these homes. Help us to change lives one at a time.
By Board Member Debbie Schoeneshoefer
"All I have to do is park my empty car and I'll be moved in," she said with a big smile. "I lost everything in my storage, I just couldn't pay the bill." But that didn't diminish the thrill of her finally getting an apartment, a place to call her own, a place for her 3 children.
Just 3 weeks before, while sitting in DMV, she had gotten a crushing phone call. The apartment promised to her had been rented to someone else. In front of the masses, she burst into tears. "I will never find a place. No one wants to rent to me. It's hopeless."
Now, the sun was shining again. This is a sure thing, Volunteers of America helped her to find an apartment and even paid for the deposit. Relief seeped out of her pores. Furniture was the last thing on her mind. She will now have a floor to lay down on and she was thrilled about it.
HART wanted her to have more, she had worked so hard to get to this point. A call to furnish her apartment was put out to our HART supporters. And, they responded to the call. She will have a sweet surprise when she moves in. Beds, linens, and furniture will all be in place. She and her precious family will be moving into a fully furnished apartment. She will no longer be homeless, and we are thrilled for her and her family.
Our organization is run by volunteers and dependent on your generous donations. Please consider giving to help us move others out of homelessness.
By Board Member Mark Hedlund
Sean was out on the streets with nowhere to go.
He's a young adult who moved out here from his Florida home to stay with his father. Unfortunately, it didn't work out and his father would no longer let him stay. With few resources and little knowledge of surviving on his own without shelter, Sean was then victimized by having his backpack and cell phone stolen. The first glimmer of hope came when he learned about Elk Grove's Winter Sanctuary.
Sean was a grateful guest for several nights. Our volunteers gave a listening ear, letting him know we'd do what we could to help. In the meantime, we assured him he would have several weeks of being confident in the knowledge that every night, he’d have a safe, warm place to stay and a hot meal.
As quickly as he came to our doors, Sean was gone. Volunteers were concerned. But he left a note tucked into the door jam at our intake center, the Elk Grove United Methodist Church.
Sean wrote that he was finally able to make contact with his sister. She agreed to come get him and pay for his ticket back to Florida where he would be reunited with his mother. He wrote that he left behind his own sleeping bag at Impact Community Church, which was hosting that week, saying, "You can give it away to anyone who needs it."
"I am very thankful, and my heart goes out to all of your staff and the new friends I made here," wrote Sean. "Thank you soooo much for everything you’ve done and God bless!!!"
Many of our guests have long term needs for shelter. Some, like Sean, only need a boost for a little while. In either circumstance, our volunteers realize that a little kindness can have great impact on those in need.
We are a 501c(3) non-profit organization;
100% of donations go directly toward providing services.
Tax ID# 46-4162394