MEND Gala Wrap Up

Every well run fundraiser is well planned. Sometime in September the lights stay on for late Wednesday evening meetings at the MEND center on San Fernando.


I have never been a “lady who lunches”, instead I am a “lady who grabs my kid from daycare, zooms through McDonald’s and rushes up a flight of stairs to kiss 25 faces before sitting down and starting kindergarten homework while the meeting starts”. It is not glamorous, or well executed, but it is how I roll.

How the Committee works

Despite how I perform as a Gala member, everyone else comes with pens and notepads and ideas. We have been doing this for seven years and tiny factions have formed. People gravitate to tasks like solicitation, public relations, auction items and volunteer recruitment the ways that bees pollinate their favorite flowers.

Bigger issues such as ticket prices, Board Member engagement, entertainment, production features and suggestions for growth are openly and freely debated.  There are laughs and sometimes there is wine.

Starting in December the meetings go from monthly to weekly.  We say MEND’s mission statement, discuss dollars, order favors (thanks Aimee who hated me in highschool but comes through for MEND and me every year at AB_Unlimited), bond over our love of Mr. Urbano from Universal Studios and get ready for the big event.

The day before the Gala we load up a large truck with supplies and I pretend that I know how to create lovely silent auction baskets while my daughter plays with the COO’s kid. MEND is a family friendly affair for staff and volunteers alike on the weekends.

Family affair  – Mr Kelly, and Carrie’s son and his dancing lady friend. (I borrowed this photo from Facebook)

By 11 am on Gala day the committee is assembling table decorations, setting everything up, wandering around in curlers and eventually laughing in the ladies room as we fix zippers, share lipstick and discuss slips and shoes. (I gave my shoes to my friend Tarry who used to be a MEND employee and now volunteers.)  We are our  own special sorority. Sometimes silly, always serious about our goal.

Where does the money go?

This is the only big fundraiser MEND has all year.  MEND’S budget has two great needs: homeless services and Medical Dispensing.  MEND has a great Diabetic program with specialized food boxes, nursing, education and blood testing & Insulin. Insulin saves lives and it is hard for us to put a price-tag on it – but the manufacturers have managed to do that and MEND pays so that we can give the medication to clients in need.

Thank you Heritage Provider Network and other generous donors.

The funds raised at the GALA are the operations budget, the orphaned program funds for homeless services, showers, the Diabetic program and all the wonderful and needed programs that are not glamorous enough to attract other directed donations. Sure, there is food and music, and a great show on television combined with an awesome MC from ABC7 each year (This year we had Sid Garcia; in previous  years Danny Romero served) .

As committee members we are COMMITTED members to supporting this oasis of help in a desert of need.

How do we know if we have done our job well?

This is what happens when an Analyst is your Committee Chairperson.

Robin, Victoria,Steve and Susan watching the analysis
Every well run fundraiser is well planned. This is what happens when an Analysist is your Committee Chairperson.
Yasmin Serrato explains the success and areas of improvement to Pablo and Rita

If you look in the window you can see a reflection of a computer spreadsheet that is being projected from the television. Yasmin is walking us through comparisons to previous years and taking notes. We are always giving feedback.

There is always magic in giving. Victoria gave Darla a wand from Universal Studios where our gala is held.

My youngest daughter has been on the committee for the past six years, and she has made some lifelong (6 years that is) friendships and connections that only enforce my love for MEND. The people behind the scenes are as passionately in love with the goals as the staff and day to day volunteers. Now we go through the long hiatus of waiting for Fall to begin again.

While we wait, think about joining us. We have food, and the occasional cookie, and so much fuzzy fun. If there is something you want to donate to our auctions, let me know because it is tax deductible.

Homeless Showers

The San Fernando Valley  Rescue Mission and MEND combining  together to bring hygiene and dignity to our neighbors who don’t have access to soap, water and privacy.

#peoplehelpingpeople #mendpoverty 

Let’s Discuss Dignity

Twenty-two years ago I spent two days laying face down, crying into my living room carpet . Everything I had tried just failed.  Big things, a thousand small things, all of the things had slipped from my grasp and I was failing.

I had been psyched up to be a wife, and a young stay at home mother, and maybe someone who completed a BA down the road if I found time in my suburban dream. Instead, my relationship crumbled, Mervyn’s fired me (because I was obviously falsifying comment cards, it was impossible that I could be so good with people…but ask me about this another time), and I had 3/4ths of a degree in Physical Therapy with no way to get back into my life as I had known it.

When it “got real”, I pulled out the phone book, found the blue pages of government listing service and looked up the address to the Welfare Office. Bleakness.  I walked into to a dim green room where my shoes stuck to the floor and I will never be certain if the puddle in the chair next to me was apple juice, but I’ve decided to believe it was. In my hands I held a ten page, double sided application, and a pen. I could not fill it out. I must have made five trips to the Help Desk and I still wasn’t comfortable. I met with an eligibility worker who shamed me; pointed out that all the other white people on the building were employees, and send me home with a list of needed documents and a follow up appointment.  That was the day I walked back into my little apartment and folded onto the floor wondering if if I could ever get up again.

Twenty years later, or 2 years ago, I had my Bachelor’s Degree is Sociology, my own car, house, and no debt at all. I found my revenge on the County Welfare system by becoming an employee within it in a job that allowed me to do outreach work and volunteer in my community. My baby was off at  college, but a second child had arrived and I was still a single mother – only by this time I was doing okay. Education, house, career, and home life were all neatly checked off in the Success column.

   The floors of the Welfare office must never get washed.

I had this thought as I was lying face down in the lobby of the GAIN office in Burbank. Just seconds before I was walking a client to the door when the room spun and the floor ate my face. My doctors pulled me out of work and put me on medical leave.

Medical leave is nice and all, but waiting for Disability to come in so I could pay my bills and feed my youngest daughter was nerve-wracking. I had some concerns. I shared these thoughts with the front desk volunteer at MEND one Thursday morning in late January. I was in the San Fernando Road  office working on the silent auction for the Gala fundraiser my local non-profit throws to breathe life into their programs designed to help people survive in an impoverished neighborhood and find ways to leave that desperate economic strata. As we talked, Adela, the volunteer, walked me into the intake room and put me at a desk.  When a third person walked in, Adela said “This is Sonya and she needs to see if she qualifies for your program.” She smiled down at me and whispered “Come to my desk if you have problems with the forms” and disappeared down the hall. A week later an EBT card arrived in the mail.

This was the MEND effect.

Meet each need with dignity.

I was treated with dignity, and not because I volunteered for MEND, but because that is how MEND works. Some Saturdays I walk in through the floor to ceiling glass doors and stand by that reception desk just to watch the flow of faces. Little kids sit laughing at the tables, parents chat in the waiting room chairs, someone is always knitting in front of the clothing boutique, and bent senior citizens angle their grinning faces up to each other while they wait for food, or a medical appointment, or whatever special program is  offered that day.

Mend staff on Oscar night at universal stidios
MEND staff at their fundraising gala

The floor is not sticky. The room is not dim. The chairs are dry and clean. In my five years of volunteering for MEND, I must have had the opportunity to sit in every chair and even the one I broke in Lupe’s office was clean. I never intended to be a MEND client, even momentarily, and I never felt like one. I don’t think anyone does.

I’m used to volunteering at MEND

The MEND Effect is a design feature that started with the Rose family who just wanted to do a little something nice for their neighbors and then let others in on their idea until it grew into the community icon it is today.

MEND is not the heart of Pacoima. MEND is the limbic system that connects all of the other vital parts of the community ; politicians, doctors, dentists, tutors, teachers, schools, grocery stores, dance teachers, Health educators, financial institutions like Home Street Bank and Wells Fargo, ophthalmologist, dental and nursing students and their programs, the Welfare to Work program, courts, and more all touch and mingle in the bright beautiful building at Pierce and San Fernando Road and in the ETC nestled into the heart of Van Nuys Boulevard. MEND staff are likely to shake hands with a Board of Supervisors Member with the same warmth and enthusiasm they shared while clasping  hands with an elderly client.

Nene with “young volunteers “.

You will hear that MEND is volunteer run. Seasonal volunteers, like me, drop in for special programs like the Santa’s Workshop, Christmas in the Spring, and Head to Toes. Day to day volunteers answer the phones, pack food boxes, drive delivery trucks, teach English, send out mail, scheadule medical, vision, and dental appointments and perform the technical arts of Dentistry and Medicine. Volunteers are everywhere and they are hard to spot unless they come in the form of a Scout Troop. (It is safe to say that eleven-year-olds are not on the payroll.) MEND volunteers are trained, knowledgeable and efficient. This is not accident. Every volunteer is assigned to a department and each department has  staff members tasked with being an expert in their area and teaching their volunteers everything they know. Sharing their knowledge keeps the program alive and the volunteers take these skills back to the neighborhood where they are passed around again and the entire community is better educated, elevated and healthier.

The first time I used the EBT card (it is in my wallet as a reminder, ask and I will show you) was at Food 4 Less in Van Nuys and Glenoaks. The cashier leaned over and whispered “If you need more help than that, go to MEND”.

Volunteers at the 2017 Gala

 Poverty and food scarcity is only a paycheck in either direction. I donate money, time, and goods to MEND because I keep being reminded of this unfortunate truth. Through MEND, poverty can be survived with dignity.

Dignity will pull you up off the floor, not push you down in tears.

Help the Charleston Families and Other Assistance agencies in the Neighborhood.

I am still feeling sick about the #Charleston AME shooting last night. I have heard it is not #Terrorism because it isn’t politically motivated and the shooter was “mentally disturbed”. Umm, Sitting Senator Clementa Pinckney was one of the nine victims murdered. I would call that a political shooting, wouldn’t you?

9 People Died, many more are suffering in Charleston.
9 People Died, many more are suffering in Charleston.

At any rate … Verbage and politics aside – how can you help the families and the neighborhood?

There is a fund to help the victims burial costs:

Mother Emanuel Hope Fund

C/O City of Charleston

P.O. Box 304

Charleston, SC 29402


And here is information about other neighborhood resources and services, because you don’t have to be black or a member of the church to feel the pain of the neighbors and everyone can use a little help sometimes.

South Carolina Assistance and Aid Programs.

Get help and find assistance programs in all cities and counties, including Charleston and Columbia.

Operation RoundUp
This is offered by many utility companies, including Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative, Palmetto Electric Cooperative and others. The organizations join together to help neighbors who are dealing with a crisis. Grants, financial aid, and funds provided address needs such as clothing, food, shelter, utility bills, health care and other community services. More.

Gap Assistance Pharmacy Program for Seniors (GAPS)
GAPS provides pharmacy assistance and it will assist with paying prescription bills for seniors. It will fill the gap for eligible seniors’ Medicare prescription drug coverage when their drug costs reach the so called “donut hole.” (888) 549-0820

Mortgage Assistance, and Foreclosure Prevention Resources
There are several different programs and resources that homeowners in South Carolina can use to get help with their mortgage. Programs are offered at the state as well as local level. Read more.

Also, the state has several government certified non-profit agencies that counsel homeowners through difficult times. Many of their services are offered at no cost. More on South Carolina HUD agencies.

ABC Child Care Program
This is the statewide system that was created by South Carolina to deliver low cost or free child care services under a federally funded grant program. The ABC Child Care Voucher program will make payments to child care providers to care for low-income children so their parents can work. In addition to this, the ABC Child Care Program also has various activities and projects that will help to improve child care programs throughout the state. It will help make the child care providers and their programs more affordable and available to the families that need them. 803-898-2570, or more onchild care assistance in South Carolina.

Family Independence Program
Family Independence (FI) is a time-limited program that will assist families in need with dependent children when families cannot provide for their basic needs. The main focus of this program is to assist lower income and struggling families with meeting their basic needs by providing cash grants and assistance, supportive services, job training, employment opportunities, and other aid. (800) 768-5700

Legal Assistance
Legal Services of South Carolina offers several programs and resources that will provide state residents with tips and advice. More.

Crisis Assistance for Bills
If you or your family are faced with an emergency and have no other options available, then the Salvation Army may be able to help. They have centers across South Carolina, and may have cash assistance for paying bills, rent, housing, medications, and more. Read more Salvation Army SC financial help.

Senior Programs in South Carolina
Residents who are 55 or older can contact the Office of Aging. This non-profit organization administers resources specifically for seniors. Programs include emergency rent, food, transportation, and information on medical and health care. Click here.

Emergency Rental Assistance Program
This program is run by the South Carolina Housing and Finance Development Authority and it provides rental assistance to low-income seniors age 55 and older. The funds provided are a one time payment. Click here.

Medical, Dental, and Community Clinics
Various clinics around South Carolina can provide the low income and the uninsured with either free or low cost medical/dental care, and even medications. More on South Carolina community clinics.

Debt Reduction and Credit Services
Find a listing of not for profit agencies that can provide credit counseling, debt consolidation, and mortgage/housing assistance to state residents. A number of organizations specialize in these credit services. More South Carolina credit counseling.

Disability Programs
Residents that are disabled, their family members or caregivers can get assistance. Several benefits and government programs provide financial aid, home care, respite, employment, and other support. Find details on the South Carolina benefits and get information on the disability application process.Click here.

Transitional Housing
Families who were recently or will soon be evicted can benefit from short term housing and case management services in South Carolina. Programs will help people find a job, improve their finances, and locate and move into a new permanent home. Additional details.

Low Income Housing Vouchers
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) section 8 vouchers can be used to pay a portion of a low income families rent or maybe even energy bill costs. Programs are also available for the disabled and elderly in South Carolina. Read section 8 housing choice in South Carolina.

Eviction Assistance and Programs for Homeless in South Carolina
Several non-profit organizations, charities and churches specialize in preventing evictions and rehousing. Government grants are used for paying rent. Legal support, case management, and funds for paying security deposit on a new low income home in South Carolina are often available. Click more information.

South Carolina Pantries and Food Banks
Learn where to turn to get free food, groceries, and other forms of non-financial aid and assistance in the state of South Carolina. Food banks help tens of thousands per year. Learn more.

Job Programs, Government Grants, and Self-sufficiency
Struggling families can turn to a community action agency for help. The non-profits provide individuals with many services, including job training, counseling, child care, grants for paying bills, housing, and resources such as Head Start. Read South Carolina community action agencies.

Resources are also focused on the unemployed and those looking to increase their income by gaining new skills. WorkSource Centers offer a number of free services. Click job programs South Carolina.

Utility, Electric, and Energy Bill Assistance
Most of the utility companies that operate in the state provide emergency grants, weatherization, and other forms of financial assistance to needy customers. Get details on South Carolina utility programs.

—- and the names you need to know are Senator Pickney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanda Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Daniel L Simmons, Rev Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson .

The People on the Offramp

It makes me nervous to see folks standing on the side of the rode, the off-ramp, or intersection asking for money.

I am afraid FOR them, not of them. Hospitalizations are a common occurrence for someone who falls into traffic or doesn’t vacate the roadway fast enough or just wants to be hit by a car to get to a warm hospital bed and be shown human concern and care.

Every part of me wants to throw open the doors of my car and invite them in and take them home with me. Although, as I think about it – I often have homeless or impoverished people staying with me and occasionally have lived in my own living room to give someone else a place to call home. Knowing that does not reduce my concern.

What are your thoughts?

Also – how humbling it must be to stand in public and beg – does it feel like being in the stockade of yore?

I am “Not Accomplished” – but I am offended. In Defense of the “Slackers”

Sure, sure, I can play seven instruments proficiently and sing and draw and have written a newspaper column and won awards for this here blog and some of my charity work – and I have two beautiful and smart daughters. Oh, I have had my paintings and my written works published in real books and not the self-published Kindle Books ( although you can find me there too).  But these are more along the lines of “Random Sonya Adventures” and not the classical “Accomplishments” such as dual degrees and holding the position of CFO or CEO etcetera, etcetera. .

I was blindsided this weekend and I really should not have been, but I was and two days later I remain angry and hurt. At a dinner with rocket scientists and engineers the talk came about to parenting and children. “Accomplishment is the most important thing. Children need to be accomplished.”


Children need to be decent human beings who grow up into decent human beings.

I want my girls and all the children of my clients and all of the friends of my children to be three things:

1. Happy

2. Healthy

3. Well Adjusted

If I had not been sitting in a corner and if I would not have had to climb out over and behind people, I would have left the dinner party. The question remains unanswered as to what made me more uncomfortable –

  1. The senior citizen saying she knew her new boyfriend didn’t wear a toupee because it feels real when she pulls on his hair (eww, I was eating. . . was).
  2. The insinuation that I was a walking and talking failure to my parents because I only have 1 degree and no fame or social acclaim to speak of. ( Let us not even think about how my baby brother would measure on this scale!) Also, my value system was knocked because I drive a gas efficient 9-year-old non-luxury car because I am more interested in getting around town than “taking care of myself”.

If I am not good enough to be held in high esteem just as I am, then your value system is crap and I don’t think I need to be near you. If you can not look up and understand that you are calling the person directly across the table from you as “LOSER”   then you have lost my desire to know you.

What do you all think is important in character and child development?

Back My Kickstarter – Shedding Affluenza

HElp teach Darla about the real value of people
Help teach Darla about the real value of people

You all know that Poverty and Homelessness are causes close to my heart. I am trying to find ways to explain poverty, culteral diversity , and appriciation for who people ARE rather than what they HAVE to my daughter.
This is my result.
I want to spend time taking Darla to all the different types of neighborhoods that we can reach on the weekends. WE will take photos and eventually publish an e-book about her adventures and what she has learned.
YOU can be in the book!

YOU can give us instructions on locations to explore.

We will be eating the local food and staying where we travel.

Our book will explore poverty, racism, cultural diversity and how other people live (rich and poor).

Please support us!

Successful or not, you know I won’t raise another Ethan Couch!

Amazon Smile. Charity While Shopping Online was simple and easy to set up from my phone…here are screenshots.

I found this from a Facebook posting by Vanessa, a childhood friend who is supporting a school.

Today I am going to ask MEND ( Meet Each Need with Dignity )  in Pacoima about their success with this and why I have not seen mention of it on their Internet presence.

In the meantime…whoo hoo. . . One more reason to enjoy shopping!