Avana had a tough childhood and emancipated herself at age 15.
She completed her GED at age 15 but couldn’t afford college and had a hard time finding work.
She was battling depression when a cousin suggested she visit.
Avana’s cousin had completed SVdP’s Kitchen of Champions Culinary Training program and suggested she might be interested.
Avana volunteered in the SVdP kitchen for a few days and liked what she saw.
She started class in January this year. Her focus in life has shifted from “always doing the wrong thing and trying not to get caught” to bettering herself and her career aspirations. During her last week as a Kitchen of Champions trainee, Avana was hired at a local restaurant as a line cook. She is now working full time and has a great future.
Originally from Tulsa, Kevin moved to Oakland in 1978. He completed vocational training and worked in the cable field for about a year. He took that experience with him when he entered the US Air Force as a cable technician.
With an honorable discharge six years later, Kevin went to work for the Hayward school district as a maintenance worker. Four years later, he took a series of jobs with construction companies and dabbled in recreational drugs.
It wasn’t long before he had a full-blown drug addiction.
Kevin spent 10 years in and out of San Quentin, North Kern, Jamestown, Santa Rita, and North County, and enrolled in numerous rehab programs but couldn’t kick drugs. In 1992, Kevin was back in prison, where he realized the problem wasn’t with the programs he had tried. “I went down on my knees, praying for help,” he says.
In 1996, when he was released, Kevin made up his mind that it was time to leave drugs alone. He got a stable job as a recycling technician at a paper company for four years, then moved on to construction work. In January 2008, the economy slowed and he lost his construction job. The bills started piling up for a year and Kevin began to once again lose hope.
One day he walked into SVdP to apply for the Kitchen of Champions program.
SVdP has helped him stay out of trouble and has helped him stay on his feet. “But mostly, it’s given me hope to create a brighter future for myself and my family,” he said.
Maria, 26, was born in Mexico.
She finished high school and completed technical preparatory school where she was certified in Secretarial Sciences and in Sewing. Maria moved to California with her husband and two children in December of 2005.
Her husband was able to get seasonal contractor’s employment but during the down times things were very hard for their family.
In 2006, her family was unable to meet some of the children’s basic needs. Maria’s sister in-law introduced her to the SVdP Visitation Center. At the Visitation Center she was greeted with “love and respect” and she says she didn’t feel embarrassed about speaking little English. Someone was always there who could understand her and help her.
Maria says she is grateful for the existence of the Visitation Center because they provide clothes, diapers, formula, shoes, laundry facilities and family hygiene packets. She says that the Center takes care of her body, mind and soul.
She has benefitted from the sewing classes, knitting classes, English conversation and bingo, and when she feels depressed or sad she knows that just coming to the Center will cheer her up.
Maria said, “At the Center I feel valued and respected and there is hope for me to become self-sufficient one day.
The classes have helped me to move forward and I am looking forward to taking additional sewing classes and ESL classes.”
“En estos tiempos que no hay tiempo para la confianza, me da esperanza para saber que ahí todavía hay personas buenas en este mundo tan difícil. Gracias.”
Donte’s last full-time job was in 2000 as a machine operator for a beverage distributor. He was fired after working for almost a year, when his supervisor noticed two fingers in his gloves flopping while he was pushing control buttons on the bottle assembly line. Donte is disabled from a fireworks accident that blew up in his hand in 1993.
The job loss was a blow to his self confidence. He didn’t work again until 2003 when he found work with a fabrication company.
This job ended when he found he couldn’t keep up because of his disability.
Recently a relative told him about SVdP’s Champion Workforce Employment Program.
Donte’s motivation to get back on his feet is to have a better relationship with his 7-year-old daughter.
He wants to help take of and see her more often.
Donte has performed volunteer hours at SVdP and is participating in employment readiness classes through SVdP’s Job Club.
He is getting good marks working as a transitional employee in the SVdP Free Dining Room.
Donte hopes to continue gaining employment skills and confidence and find full time work.
His dream is to attend barber school to enhance his haircutting abilities.
This is April’s story in her own words...
“I have been using the center ever since the time I became homeless 8 months ago.
I have become homeless due to a domestic violence thing and I was left on the streets with no place to turn to. I came into the Visitation Center totally surprised at the help that I received. I have gotten the necessary uniform for my 12-year-old son to go to school. I also got a winter jacket for him.
I have been very blessed that I have been able to have this because the uniforms are very expensive and I was having a hard time with my money from Cal-Works.
I have also used the services for the showers for both my son and I when we can.
I also get my mail sent there because of the places that I have been getting my mail the people were starting to tamper with it.
I have also been volunteering my time and helping out also because I also would like to be an intern there.
I hope that I can help out any way.
I would love to have a place like this in the East Oakland area so people would not have to come all the way to get the services they need.
I am very blessed for this service. Thank you.