She could very well be me. She could very well be you.
Who is she? Well, she asked that to protect her privacy, I not use her name. So I will, fittingly perhaps, call her “Us.”
“Last year, I was pregnant when my husband lost his job, and we got to a point that we could no longer pay our bills,” Us told me during a recent phone conversation. “We tried everything we could to make it, but ultimately we lost everything and ended up in our van with a newborn baby.”
Articulate and in possession of a warm and professional demeanor, Us said she never imagined such a thing could happen to her family.
“As a mom, it killed me to live in a shelter and then go from one motel to another,” Us said, her voice cracking slightly. “Every morning, when we awoke, we had no idea what was going to happen to us that day; how we would eat, or care for our child.”
Desperately seeking work and help, Us and her husband found their first ray of hope when they were put in touch with Burbank-based Family Promise of the Verdugos, whose mission is to assist families in crisis by providing emergency shelter, food, workforce development, education and financial assistance.
“Carrie Prado, who is the program manager at Family Promise, changed our lives,” said Us. “She assured us we would have a safe place to live and that everything would be OK. They also provided us with food, toiletries, diapers and formula. The whole team was a blessing, and it brings me to tears when I think of what they did for us. I can’t even put it into words — that they were willing to do so much to help our family. It was heartwarming to know there are people out there who really care about others.”
Earlier this year, Us’ husband secured a job and Family Promise — an affiliate of the national Family Promise organization — helped the family with a security deposit to get into a new apartment. Us, who already has child care lined up, is now also looking for work, though she said it is difficult even to get an interview during the pandemic.
“But at least we are back on track,” Us said softly. “Without Family Promise, I have no idea what would have become of us. I still can’t believe it happened to us; but now I know it can happen to anyone, and sadly, I’m seeing it happen to some friends of mine because of the COVID situation. Unless you have gone through something like this you can’t imagine how horrible it is, and you can’t fully appreciate what a blessing Family Promise is.”
Last week, the local chapter of Family Promise celebrated 10 years of making blessings such as that a reality; which it does by partnering with 27 area churches and offering 16 programs to help more than 100 local homeless families on a daily basis.
To celebrate that milestone and present its annual Hands On, Hearts In Award, the organization had plans for a gala fundraiser to be held at Universal Studios. Although the pandemic thwarted that event, Albert Hernandez, executive director of Family Promise of the Verdugos, made sure the honor was still admiringly bestowed on this year’s honoree, former Burbank Mayor Marsha Ramos, a longtime supporter of the organization.
The presentation, livestreamed last week from Ramos’ company, GeoSystems Inc., may not have been as festive as the one planned, but the lack of gala trappings did nothing to diminish the heartfelt gratitude Hernandez showed to Ramos for her dedication and support.
“Marsha is a passionate person who has served Burbank as a coach, commissioner, board member, council member and mayor,” Hernandez said in his introductory remarks. “She has been enthusiastically involved with our mission from the very beginning. That passion, to be of help to others, was instilled in her by her parents, Richard and Lila Ramirez.”
Saying that Ramos truly lives up to the name of the award by being a “hands on” supporter, Hernandez lauded her compassionate service.
“She has many times actually met with members of the families we serve, and they can’t believe they are meeting a former mayor who is showing them so much care and compassion; someone who has so much enthusiasm about helping them,” said Hernandez.
Upon her acceptance of the award, from a safe social distance, Ramos reminded those watching that the journey to bring a local chapter of Family Promise to Burbank began during the nation’s last economic recession.
“I remember when the hall at the First Presbyterian Church of Burbank was filled with hundreds of community members [who came] to talk about what could be done to address the increasing numbers of homeless families,” Ramos recalled. “Shortly after that meeting, community and faith leaders were inspired to act, and together they took a leap of faith to build something meaningful.”
A believer in that idea that faith is the hope of things unseen, Ramos said it was by taking such a leap that the community embraced the establishment of Family Promise of the Verdugos.
“I believe that each one of us can be multipliers of goodness, love and care,” said Ramos. “And that we can multiply those gifts tenfold by lifting up the most vulnerable and supporting the transforming mission of Family Promise.”
It is by virtue of the goodness, love and care of Family Promise and its supporters that every Burbank family can have the hope of knowing, if the unimaginable were to happen to them, that help would be available. During these challenging times, that is an offering of great solace … for you, for me … for US!
For more information on Family Promise of the Verdugos, which has obtained housing for 97% of the homeless families it has served, visit familypromiseverdugos.org.
David Laurell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.