Friendly Center

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Success Stories

A Mother and Her Son Find Help

Dear Friends of Friendly Center,

Nothing can make a mother feel more helpless than having to send her child to bed hungry. And nothing can make a mother feel more secure than knowing her child is protected and well fed. My son and I have food on the table today because of people like you.

Living under the circumstances I face now was never a choice. I was born and raised in Orange, CA, got married and had a son. I went to school and became a nurse. But when my son was 5 years old my husband abandoned us and moved out of the country. We haven't seen him since.

For the last 9 years I raised my son on my own, teaching him the value of an education and the importance of helping others. Life was stable for us. We were involved in our community and gave regularly to local charities. My son excelled in school—I call him “the brainiac”.

Earlier this year, due to cutbacks in the hospital, I was laid-off from work. Many other places were doing the same and I couldn't find another job. My sister and brother's families were facing similar hardships so they were unable to help. With nowhere else to turn, I exhausted my savings and I cashed out my retirement. Once those were depleted things got worse.

At this point we were surviving on what I received from unemployment checks. I began recycling cans and bottles to buy gas. My son had to eat cereal with water for breakfast and we had peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and dinner. My son carried a lot of emotional burden because of our situation. I felt inadequate as a mother. I tried receiving help from a few different places, but their resources were limited and not long-lasting. I needed a help up, not a hand out.

I stayed informed on the state of the economy and often checked the unemployment websites for updates. One day I saw a posting with a phone number to call for assistance referrals. When I called the operator told me that Friendly Center was in my area. I had remembered Friendly Center when I was a little girl, but didn't know they still existed nor did I know exactly what they did. I called them and things changed.

I met with one of their Family Advocates, who asked about my needs. She told me about the programs at Friendly Center and she explored every aspect for me. I left that day with a box of food, some bread, a food card for future visits, and an approval for rental assistance. She was my guardian angel.

When I got home, my son couldn't believe the food I had. He said in disbelief, “Where did you get this bread? You mean you didn't have to pay for this? They gave it to you?”

Now a month later, my son and I are doing better. I go to Friendly Center weekly to get the food we need. My Family Advocate follows up with me and my pursuit of a new job.
And though I may not have a job yet, I do have help now. I still have other bills to pay and a car registration to take care of. But the money I save now from food and a couple months of rental assistance will help me catch up. I feel supported now. My son's anxiety has gone down. My anxiety has gone down. I have reassurance that things will get better. I no longer feel alone.

My son is somewhat embarrassed that I receive services and he wanted to stop his community volunteering activities. I told him he can't stop helping others. He can't stop helping others, because now more than ever he knows what it means to receive. Everyone needs food, a place to stay, and clothes to wear. He wants to go to law school, become a lawyer, and one day be a senator. I believe he will be. One thing I've said to him is “When you grow up and if you're ever in a position to give, give.” I always gave, but I could've given more.

I'm 50 years old now and I never thought that I would have to get help like this. You never know when you yourself might be that person. What do you do when your family can't help or you have no family to turn to? You go to Friendly Center. It's a safety net and they will help you get back on your feet.

So from a parent who thought she'd never need assistance; who saw her child go without food; who fell behind on rent; who once gave and now receives; I ask you to look in your heart and consider a gift.

If you are blessed, then give. If you already give, give more.

Give, because it works.

Sincerely,
A Grateful Mother

Support After the Fire

When Javier lost his job a few months ago, he and his family thought it was the biggest hardship they would face this year. Javier was working for a car dealership in the auto body shop when he was laid off. While he has looked for a new job, Javier, his wife Gloria, and their three children have managed to get by with what Javier makes from washing cars and the support of extended family. But nothing would prepare them for what happened next.

On September 9, 2012, while the family was out running errands, their apartment caught fire. Their sixteen year old daughter was nearby at her aunt's apartment when she received a call from a neighbor about smoke coming from the apartment. Within minutes the fire consumed the apartment and took what little they had. Javier and Gloria, who had their 7-year-old and 4-month-old with them, came rushing home when they received the call. By the time they arrived, everything was gone. No furniture, no clothes, no food, no home. The loss they felt was deep. The sixteen- year-old who had gone next door earlier without shoes, came home to no shoes. They were literally left with just the clothes on their back.

The first thing Javier says came to his mind was that they didn't have diapers for the baby and he wasn't sure where his family would stay. Gloria worried for her kids, but was grateful everyone was safe.

The 7-year-old son, who was taken to his aunt's house while mom and dad tried to salvage their belongings, wanted to see for himself what had happened. He didn't fully believe it was true. But like any little boy would feel, when they finally took him to see, he was angry and sad. He didn't understand what or why this happened.

Thankfully the family is able to stay with Gloria's sister, who is married with two kids of her own, while they try to put back the pieces of their life.

The next day, the children's school notified Friendly Center about what had happened. Javier and Gloria had not heard of Friendly Center, but were thankful for any help we could offer. Javier felt that providing for and protecting his family was what a husband should do, but for the first time he felt completely helpless. Javier says, "I felt I had to fix everything, but I couldn't. I needed help."

One of our Family Advocates quickly went to meet with Javier and Gloria to provide emergency food, diapers, clothes, and to create a plan for the family to get their life back on track. The family is scheduled to be in our counseling program to help them deal with the tragedy and the emotions that come with it. Javier is meeting with our Job Developer to help him in his job search.

After her initial meeting with our Family Advocate, Gloria said she didn't feel lost or desperate anymore. She and Javier both feel they have the support they need to move ahead. And though things may not be the way they were before, the pieces are slowly coming together. Friendly Center's Family Advocate will continue to meet with them on a weekly basis as they stabilize.