Sarah provides help and hope to her community
When people walk into the Victor Valley Rescue Mission—whether it be for resources, a hygiene kit, or even just a cup of coffee—they most often see Sarah first. She’s been volunteering with the mission for two years, and mans the front desk four or five days of the week.
“I know most of the people out here now,” Sarah said. “After a while, people started noticing who I was. I’d say about 30 percent are under 30 years old. They are kids really, without their parents, by themselves, so I started talking to them. They started calling me ‘Mom.’ When new kids come to the area, they tell them to come see me.”
Sarah lived near the rescue mission and her curiosity was piqued when she drove by. “I learned what they did—handing out doughnuts and coffee in the morning, helping with food, or whatever you need,” she said. Sarah spoke to the volunteer coordinator about helping out. She started working the Friday night food giveaway, a partnership with the Lord’s Table. She did that for six months. “And then I don’t know how it happened,” Sarah said, laughing, “but I started helping out at the front desk.” Sarah meets with local community members who are struggling with poverty and homelessness, providing food, hygiene kits, dog food, or other items.
“I’ve been there before. I wasn’t on the streets, but I’ve been in addiction before. I have years behind me on that,” said Sarah, who’s been clean since 1993. “But I know where they’re coming from. And they know I’ve been there and done that. I’m not talking from a book. They open up to me.”
Sarah was born in Los Angeles and was one of five children. She took care of her parents, who passed in 1991. She struggled with addiction around that time and sought help at the Long Beach Rescue Mission. “I was there for a while and then I got housing and got back on my feet,” Sarah said. “It was a crazy (neighborhood) though, and my son was just turning 14 and I was scared for him.”
Sarah had lived in the Victor Valley before, and headed back. Sarah’s older son is now 32 and lives in La Puente. Her younger son is 19 and lives with Sarah and her husband, who have been married for 18 years. “This is something I didn’t know I would do,” she said. “It just fits. There’s a reason why I’m here. I feel it.
“We give people resources, and some don’t follow through. I can’t tell them what to do, only how to do it. When I was at the mission in Long Beach, it was 18 months before I got housing. It doesn’t happen in an instant. But if you follow through, you’ll get it. You have to stay on track.”
Sarah recalled a young woman she met volunteering at the mission. “This girl was doing really badly on the streets. She was lost. She was on heroin, on meth. I just got a picture of her. She’s in L.A. in sober living. She’s been off it all for six months. Those are the ones that make me realize why I’m here.”
Sarah is grateful she can help those in need. “When people come in, they say, ‘You know exactly what I need when I come here.’ The kids out here, all they want to do is be acknowledged, respected. They don’t like that they’re seen in a bad way. I ask them what they need, if they want a coffee. They just want someone to know their names. They are surprised when it happens. But when I say their names, it clicks in their heads—someone remembers who they are. On the streets, it’s like they’re part of the wall, like they are not seen anymore. I ask who they are, tell them good morning. They are thought of here.”