Graduate Jim

Once OCIS graduates achieve the path to self-sufficiency, we love to hear how they’re doing! 

Jim and his family of 7 were sleeping from motel rooms to friend’s homes for over six-months.  It was a time in the economy when construction jobs had all but vanished and so did their rented house that they were living in.

Jim and his family found out about Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter (OCIS) through the social services department.  The family stayed at OCIS for 9-months.  During this time Jim took as many jobs as he could, painting and other construction type jobs.  His wife found work through a local house cleaning business.  They were able to save their money and relocate to independent housing.

Jim visited OCIS about a month ago.  He was the construction supervisor for a large company.  He had stopped by on his lunch break.  He said that if it wasn’t for OCIS they’ never would have been able to remove themselves from homelessness’.  He also shared that his kids looked back at OCIS as ‘one of the best times of their lives’. They had made friends and had a stable life.

Jim and his wife have well paying jobs and are about to purchase their first home in Southern California.

This true story about one of graduates was made possible by YOU and your generous support to OCIS!  Thank you for your generosity and we hope to bring you future stories with updates from our graduates like Jim!

New Year. New inspiration.

This week, we share with you a story direct from the Executive Director, Laura Miller.  We’re always pleasantly surprised when shelter graduates pay us a visit, and this is no exception!

Georgia and her son arrived at Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter (OCIS) after a long marriage filled with violence and deception.  One day the father abandoned the family and he was never to return.  She and her son lost their apartment.  Now the head of household Georgia had to find work quickly and her goal was to move back to the same city she had to leave.

During the nine-months Georgia stayed at OCIS she acquired a well paying job with a major company.  She saved enough money to put down a deposit for her apartment and she went back to the same apartment complex that she had lived in, this was one of her goals.

About three-months ago Georgia came to OCIS to say hello to the staff that had helped her family become stable and healthier.  She is still at the same job that she had gotten when she resided at OCIS three-years ago.  She has also volunteered to speak at OCIS functions and to the current residents to inspire them towards their goals.

OCIS and FOCIS would like to wish our supporters a wonderful and safe New Year.  Here’s to helping even more families in 2013!

Pictures of Hope: An inspiring holiday story

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This week we wanted to share with you an inspiring charity called “Pictures of Hope.”  “Pictures of Hope” is a campaign founded by photojournalist Linda Solomon to teach children to share their feelings through learning photography skills.  Children who are taught these skills live in homeless shelters or are in at-risk situations.  Last year, Solomon brought this project to ten cities around the nation to bring children’s “hopes and dreams” to the forefront. 

In each city, Solomon provided a photo tutorial to kids ages 6 to 13 at shelters and at-risk facilities.  At the end, children were surprised with cameras to capture their “hopes and dreams.”  What resulted was inspiring photos capturing stories of wishes, self-worth and life. 

Each city’s “Pictures of Hope” were turned into holiday greeting cards available for purchase.   Because this project was sponsored by Chevrolet, 100 percent of the proceeds of the greeting cards went back directly to the shelters and facilities. 

To learn more about this charity, visit Linda Solomon’s website: http://www.lindasolomonphotography.com/PicturesOfHope/

For a video synopsis:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3KIWmPK1q4&feature=plcp&noredirect=1

Sources: Linda Solomon Photography, Huffington Post

2012 FOCIS Holiday Luncheon: Gena’s Story

Thanks for those who came and supported our annual FOCIS Holiday Luncheon last week! 

We were grateful to have OCIS graduate Gena come and share her story with us.  For those who couldn’t attend, we wanted to share with you Gena’s story:

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Gena and her son became homeless due to the sudden loss of her job.  She did not have a job lined up to support both of them in the apartment they lived in.  She received an eviction notice and had to leave within a few weeks.  She had been balancing her bills for food, medical care, rent and a car payment.  She had no means of supporting her lifestyle any longer.

Gena called us one day in deep desperation and anguish.  She had no where to go and did not want to sleep in her car.  Gena knew that she had to get a job that could sustain her and her son.  It could not be minimum wage and it had to lead to a career.  Gena was able to find a job within a few months of being with OCIS.  She maintained her employment and saved no less than 30 percent of her income.

At the end of nine-months Gena had saved enough money for a security deposit on an apartment in the same complex that she had to leave.  She has continued to thrive at the company that she started working for 4 years ago.  She will now be supported by her employer to go back to school and complete her Bachelor’s degree.  It is her goal to work for her company internationally.

Gena will be purchasing her first home in about six-months, her son is going to college next year and she can proudly say that she has been self-sufficient since graduating from OCIS.  Gena would like to come back to OCIS and assist the women and men who were in her shoes a few years ago, by teaching them resume writing skills and interviewing skills.

A look back: A chance to give a little

This week we look back at an article written in the Daily Pilot in 2003 about the spirit of Christmas and OCIS.  It makes us thankful for our volunteers and donors during the holiday season.  Your help makes individual differences in our residents’ lives, and this article is just one example of how important you are.  Happy Holidays!

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A chance to give a little

By Steve Smith

Published in the Daily Pilot on December 6, 2003

No one asked him if he wanted to be born.  No one asked him where he wanted to live or what he’d like his mom and dad to do for a living.  No one asked him if it was OK to move far away from the family members who could offer help when it was needed.  No one gave him a choice on anything important.  After all, he was only a kid; what did he know?

            So when his mom lost her job because the company wasn’t doing well, it didn’t really matter what he thought.  He had no voice in where they would go, what they would do or how they would live.  He was only along for the ride.

            A little older now, he is beginning to recognize that he is different.  He is beginning to realize that most children do not live in a group home, or multiple group homes, the way he has.  He understands now that most kids who have slept in their cars did not do so because it was an adventure, as his mom had told him, but because they had nowhere else to sleep.

            Then the car was gone—sold to buy food and clothing.

            Attending his third school in as many months, he struggled to make friends.  Knowing that the other kids in school returned home each afternoon to the same house or apartment, he could not ask them over to the shelter to play.  They wouldn’t understand and would probably tease him.

            But he watched television from time to time, and he began to understand now it was supposed to be.  He began to understand that a family was a mom, a dad and a child or children.  He watched and saw a parent going off to work; sometimes both parents went to work.  The kids went to school, often walking and laughing with chums they met along the way.

            At night, the TV people had dinner together and talked about their days.  After dinner, the mom tucked the kids into bed and kissed them goodnight.  Most of all, on television and through his schoolmates’ lives, he saw security.  It overwhelmed him to the point that he thought of little else.  His yearning for a permanent home, a good job for his mom and the chance to walk to the same school over and over again for months or years became a beautiful obsession.

            After school, when no one was watching, he acted out the family life he promised himself.  He had a wife and two children and a house of their own.  They were happy.

            Then, one day, his mom took him to a different type of group home.  This one was in a place he liked immediately because when he arrived in August, he noticed that he did not need air conditioning at night.  He’d never had air conditioning in the other homes and had suffered during the hot, sleepless nights.

            This place was different.  During the day, he went to a school where his teacher did not judge him because he was different.  At this school, his teacher gave him just as much time and attention as the other children.

            During the day at this place, his mom had things to do.  They were no longer sleeping a room with other moms and dads and kids, but one of their own.  This one even had its own bathroom.  All this meant that mom would have to keep house again, the way she used to do in their apartment when times were good.

            During the day, they taught his mom how to use a computer, something he was learning, too, in his new school.  “You can get a lot of jobs if you know how to use this well,” they told his mom. When she knew enough, they gave her some nice clothes and sent her on job interviews.

           But as soon as he saw hope, he also saw dread. It was now Thanksgiving, and he began to see signs of Christmas. Christmas meant  gifts. Toys. He had been a good boy, he thought, and even with all the bad stuff happening around him, surely he’d get something. But at 10, he was old enough to know the truth.

          He knew there was no Santa Claus, and he knew his mom didn’t have enough money yet to buy him anything. So for him, Christmas morning would be like every other morning.

          But he awoke last Christmas morning to a miracle. That morning, he had wrapped gifts at the foot of his bed. As he opened them, the miracle grew. He got the one toy he’d wished for and some brand new clothes — these had the labels still attached — and they were exactly his size.

          But the best was yet to come. Just after he opened his last gift, his mother leaned over to him and said, “Baby, I’ve got some good news for you. The computer classes I took here helped me find a job.  And some very nice person has given us the money we need to move into our own apartment again, one that’s two blocks from the school you’ll be going to. So, I’m sorry that we have to move again, but this time, it’s gonna be for a long, long time. Merry Christmas.”

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This dream was made possible by the miracle workers at the Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter in Costa Mesa. You can help them make these dreams come true through your donations of food and clothing or by sponsoring a family to make their Christmas dreams come true. But most of all, your donations of cash are needed to help kids who don’t have a choice.  Please be generous this year and make a donation today. Send it to the Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter, 1963 Wallace Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92627. Or call (949) 631-7213.

Thank you very much.

* STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and freelance writer. Readers may leave a message for him on the Daily Pilot hotline at (949) 642-6086.