If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve noticed I talk about Leadership Santa Rosa a lot. I love being involved (as you can probably tell) and even though this entry mentions LSR, it’s about much more. See the Flickr Photo Album.
J Mullineaux, Julie Montgomery, Jill Sanford and myself got together to brainstorm ways to stay connected with the rest of our classmates. J had a great idea to have a dinner party for Social Advocates for Youth’s (SAY). I can’t express clearly enough how amazing they are! SAY is a youth advocacy organization that provides: shelter for homeless teens, a foster transition home, meals for the hungry, counseling, crisis intervention, youth employment, helping encourage graduation, mentoring, low cost tattoo removal for ex-gang members, and a sense of support and belonging.
We chose to make a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at the Mary and Jose Tamayo House. Tamayo House is transitional housing for teens that have aged out of the foster care system yet still need guidance in the form of shelter, safety, job training, life training, and provides them with a sense of family. With 50 kids aging out of foster care every year, the 25 beds at Tamayo house are desperately needed. Otherwise these kids hit the street. In the recession, they’ve seen that the kids are staying longer (they are eligible 18-24).
I can’t imagine not having a family. I don’t know what it’s like to have no one to turn to when you want to learn how to cook, open a checking account, get a job, find a place to live, apply for college, or need a place to stay. These kids pretty much have nothing the minute they turn 18 and are out of foster care. I do know what it’s like to need crisis intervention and have a safe place to go. I was 16 when my family and I called SAY for help. The Dr. James E. Coffee Emergency Teen Shelter had a different name and location when I stayed there but the focus is the same.
We knew that these kids may not get a Thanksgiving meal so we brought it to them. 14 out of our 28 classmates divided up the menu and got to cooking all the traditional fixings. The tables were set for a harvest celebration and the sparkling cider flowed. Several turkeys, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, green salad, green beans, bread, pumpkin pie, apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake (I have an awesome recipe, just ask me in the comments). These kids lined up with their plates and demolished the meal, some came back again and again. There were plenty of leftovers.
We didn’t know each other and they didn’t have to come out of their rooms to eat with us but it felt like a family dinner nonetheless. It was such a happy night and we laughed, joked, and ate with each other as if we’d done it every year. Not so secretly, I’d like to do it again and again.
In the theme of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for:
- SAY and the lifesaving work they perform
- Mary & Jose Tamayo for helping SAY to keep kids warm, safe, and off the streets
- my own family that keeps me warm
- my awesome LSR classmates, for we are all of the same heart, striving to help others and make a difference
- Jill, J, Julie, Vicky, Steve (for putting in so much time) and all the rest that made such amazing food
- the dishwashers!
- the kids that sat with us, trusted us, and let us in
- Cat Cvengros and Matt Martin, just two of the amazing angels at SAY
- and that pumpkin cheesecake recipe!
May your Thanksgiving be full of warmth, love, and lots of wonderful food to eat.