Christian is the youngest of five children who were born in southern California. The entire family moved to Fresno when he was 11 years old. His parents’ relationship was a struggle which resulted in them separating and the children all staying with their mother. Resources were tight with a single disability income. This resulted in nearly six years of living in motels and shelters and moving around a lot. For a time they were even homeless and then eventually were able to move into the Whispering Woods Apartments, located in our neighborhood.
Nearly two years ago Christian was looking for a Christian community to be part of and a person in the neighborhood suggested that he visit North Fresno Church since it was a good church and conveniently situated right down the street from where he was living. He felt welcomed there and came to church on a regular basis, getting baptized on Easter 2013.
Christian was encouraged to apply for the Micah Project, a 10-month leadership discipleship urban ministry experience. He lives in an apartment with Eric, also a Micah Project intern, in a complex right near North Fresno Church. The Micah Project experience has been quite amazing for Christian. One of the highlights of the year was going to the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference in New Orleans. Not only was it his first plane ride, but it was also an amazing experience to hear how other people who have had similar backgrounds have become leaders in their community and are making a difference.
A social work major, Christian feels called to help others who are in situations like he was. He has been a faithful volunteer in our Tutoring Club and can easily relate to students who have challenging circumstances and encourage them to stay in school while giving them hope for their future. Christian is compassionate and seeks to make a positive difference in the lives of people he meets.
A Story of Hope: Ryan and Jenny McCauley
The parenting class helped Ryan and Jenny gain some valuable tools for managing family as well as strengthening their marriage.
We met Jenny in 2009. She was a single mother at the time, struggling to survive while trying to raise three children, working part-time at Walgreens, and fighting to break free from alcohol. The SART (Social Action Response Team) helped meet a few tangible needs for Jenny and her family by providing some furniture and help with rent.
As we cultivated a relationship with Jenny, she began to make some connections with a few ladies in church who walked alongside her as she journeyed on this hard road to recovery. A couple of ladies have been meeting regularly with Jenny for several years now and have been a huge wall of support. In 2010, Jenny was baptized. In August 2012 she was married. Ryan, her new husband, brought three kids into the marriage and Jenny brought her own three creating some challenging dynamics.
Both acknowledged that it was very difficult to try and parent after having been single parents for many years and developing unique styles of parenting. “We found ourselves on the brink of despair, not knowing what to do in the area of parenting and just feeling stuck,” said Ryan. “Things seemed to be spiraling out of control.” Then they heard about the parenting class FACE sponsored last fall called ” Love and Logic.” Ryan and Jenny said the class has given them a lot of hope as they have been able to agree on some approaches to discipline and communication. “It is still not easy, but we feel so much more united then before in how we respond to our kids in everyday challenges.
Our marriage has been strengthened too,” said Jenny. Jenny and Ryan are both now connected to small groups and Jenny just celebrated four years of sobriety. The combination of a supportive community and life skill training has resulted in some positive changes and provided hope for their blended family.
A Story of Hope: Monica Guzman and Xavier, Dominic, and Sallie
Our relationship with Monica Guzman goes back several years to 2008. She was referred to us through someone in the neighborhood who told her to come to the church for help. As we got to know Monica, we learned more about the details of her life story. After leaving home at the age of 16, she lived a hard life on the streets battling drugs, domestic violence and homelessness.
Two years ago, after working hard to stabilize her life, she obtained custody of her three children, all of whom attend Robinson Elementary School down the street. She learned about our Tutoring Club after we had provided transportation resources to help her with her part time job and parenting responsibilities. Every Monday and Wednesday, her three children walk up to the FACE office after school where they receive individual educational support and encouragement. Monica joins them on Wednesdays as she helps in the church kitchen preparing dinner and then works in the church nursery during the evening programs.
Last year Monica went back to school to become a Medical Assistant and now she is motivated to find a job to support her family. She is demonstrating perseverance to her children and the importance of getting an education. Waking up early in the morning to get her children ready for school and then take the bus to her school motivated her children to work towards perfect attendance. Xavier only missed one day the entire school year! Monica has recently graduated from Parent University at Robinson Elementary and is a crossing guard through Fresno Unified School District’s Safe to School program which is a great way for her to give back to the community.
Monica was able to enroll in a Job Training Program through a referral from FACE and was also able to be part of the Love and Logic Parenting Class. Through connections to the Gang Task Force, FACE was able to arrange for Monica to do community service in exchange for having some tattoos removed. This is exciting for Monica as it represents another step towards leaving her prior life behind.
Monica appreciates knowing that she can come talk to one of the Pastors and members of the faith community to receive advice, encouragement, and motivation to keep pressing on toward her goals. She currently is serving on our food service team that cooks a hot meal for the participants in our Wednesday after-school program.
A Story of Hope: Jermaine Jones
We met Jermaine in 2009 in the surrounding neighborhood of the church. At the time, Jermaine was struggling to balance his responsibilities as a college student/athlete and also his role as the oldest male in a two bedroom apartment that included four young men in their twenties, a sister who had two elementary age children, and an ill grandmother who was the matriarch of the family.
Through a series of hardships that included the loss of his mother to cancer, Jermaine found himself out of school, unemployed, and trying to provide for his family where there was little income and not enough food to have two meals a day. Through our food pantry ministry and SART (Social Action Response Team), we helped the Jones’ family find relief for some of their immediate needs.
As we developed a relationship with Jermaine we learned of his passion and gift for playing basketball. Besides connecting with our Young Men’s Basketball program on Monday evenings, we provided Jermaine access to our gym where he began teaching and coaching boys basketball for kids at multiple levels. Some of the youth are from the neighborhood while others come from local middle and secondary schools.
Jermaine feels that FACE has given him a new beginning and a tremendous opportunity that enables him to give back to his community where he has lived for over 11 years through JMJ21 Basketball Club. This allows him to share his skills in basketball while building up confidence in our youth, so they can apply it on and off the basketball court. This job is also helping Jermaine to become self-sustaining, relying less and less on outside sources for meeting his financial needs. Jermaine is honored and grateful to FACE for giving him this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the children and youth in our community.
Job Creation/Training–We believe that job training/creation is critical for families to break out of poverty and become self-sustaining. This past year we have launched two small businesses to help empower those who are struggling with unemployment or under-employment.
A Story of Hope: Devon and Alex Garza
Devon and Alex have been enriched through our Summer Adventure Club and have experienced new growth and skills
We met the Garza family in 2012. Stephanie and her two boys Devon (age 14) and Alex (age 13), lived next door in an apartment complex and were invited to get involved by one of her friends who is a member of our faith community. For the last couple of years the two teens have been actively participating in our after-school Tutoring Club and Summer Adventure Club.
Summer is a time when many kids regress from learning and lose ground in the area of reading and educational enrichment. Instead of staying home and spending many hours watching TV, playing video games or sleeping in, SAC provides opportunities for under-resourced youth like the Garzas to engage in healthy outlets and stimulate their thinking.
Last year during SAC, Devon and Alex had the chance to learn kayaking and canoeing on the San Joaquin River, learn the game of chess, improve their drawing skills, and develop some bike repair skills to name a few. Devon has struggled with academics and prefers to work with his hands. He has expressed an interest in learning auto mechanics and/or electronics. Although FACE has no program for vocational learning we are hoping that one day we can develop a mentoring program that can support people like Devon who desires to pursue another kind of learning. We look forward to having the Garzas participate in SAC this summer as they approach high school and the curriculum demands increase.
Besides participating in SAC and Tutoring Club, Devon and Alex have connected with the church youth group that happens on Wednesday evenings. There they have made friends and participated in some of the social activities and spiritual retreats. We are grateful to have them in our community.
A Story of Hope: Krishuana Simpson
Our new GED study group is helping Krishuana obtain her GED so that she can find sustainable employment.
In the summer of 2007, Krishuana was at a vulnerable place in life, having just been released from a mental health facility after suffering a nervous breakdown. A friend invited her to North Fresno Church(NFC). As we became acquainted with Krishuana, we discovered she was trying to parent four energetic small children, living with an unemployed boyfriend, and struggling to make ends meet.
During the course of the next several years, through prayer and the help of NFC’s SART (Social Action Response Team), we walked with Krishuana and her family as they struggled with basic needs. We provided furniture for their apartment. When their PGE was turned off during a hot summer month, SART was able to help out. Handymen from our community were sent to help repair broken appliances.
As Krishuana searched for jobs and struggled with under-employment, she realized that not having her GED was a huge obstacle in gaining employment. When she learned that FACE was offering a GED class, she jumped at the opportunity and has been a faithful student for the past 15 months. In 2013, she was able to pass four out of the five parts. Unfortunately, the GED test has changed and in 2014 she was required to start all over. Although she was deeply discouraged, with the help and encouragement of her tutors and friends, Krishuana has decided to keep moving forward with the goal of obtaining her GED so she can further her career goals.
She is currently working part time, married, and her children are active in some of the FACE programs such as Summer Adventure Club. However, her major goal is to complete her GED so that she might obtain the job she is looking for.
Our new small business is allowing people like David to work and help develop other younger adults who are struggling with unemployment and under-employment.
We met David in 2008 after he had been incarcerated for 14 months and was looking for a place to make positive changes in his life while on parole. We formed a care team that met with David for two years supporting him, praying for him and helping him as he sought after full time employment. Because of his felony, David struggled with finding a full-time job, taking whatever he job he could to survive and avoid relying solely on government relief. He waved a sign on Shaw Ave for a while and also found part-time work with a realtor company, but the work was only seasonal and fluctuated with the economy. Finally, through a reference and connection from one of the members of his care team, David landed a steady job in a warehouse. Unfortunately, he was recently laid off when the company had to consolidate.
In February of this year, FACE launched a 2nd business that provides lawn and yard work, as well as doing jobs that require physical labor such as moving furniture, transporting items, and doing clean-up work. David has served as one of the on-site supervisors for this new social enterprise. Currently over 15 jobs have been completed in the first three months of existence. A truck donated to FACE as well as a number of yard and lawn tools have made it possible to send out crews to work and develop job skills for some of the folks we are trying to help find employment.
Besides David’s role as one of the job-site supervisors, he has connected with multiple men in our faith community and currently helps lead a small group of young men in a Bible Study, several of whom also are facing challenges finding work and overcoming hardships. David encourages these young men through sharing his own story. David says that his desire is to give back and serve because he has personally experienced and tasted the power of community that has shown him love and support during a time in his life where he was wrestling with despair and hopelessness. We are grateful to have David on our team!
A Story of Hope: Linda Bagent and Jeremy Dooley
Linda has lived in the Robinson neighborhood for almost three years. In fact, she lives in the apartment complex right next door to FACE. She is a divorced mother with four grown daughters. Three of her daughters have made good choices in their lives and have stable families. Her fourth daughter has made some less than positive choices. Her daughter’s lifestyle choices led to her son, Jeremy, to being taken away from her. Jeremy’s father is serving time in prison for poor choices he has made. With Dad in prison and Mom not capable of taking care of him, Jeremy has been placed with his grandma.
Although Linda loves Jeremy she was not quite prepared for the way having a eight-year-old living with her would change her life. Shifting roles from Grandma to direct parenting has been challenging for Linda. Being divorced for the last 16 years, Linda had established her daily routine and enjoyed her time alone after work. She works in the marketing department for a local company. She has had to cut back her hours in order to be home when Jeremy gets out of school.
Jeremy is in second grade at Robinson Elementary. He is full of energy and curiosity, but also struggles with self-control and staying focused. Linda’s neighbor, Valerie, told her about the FACE after-school Tutoring Club that she was taking her daughter to and so Linda brought Jeremy by to check it out. Jeremy quickly made himself at home in the group and introduced himself to the tutors. Linda is grateful to have other people investing in Jeremy’s education and personal growth two afternoons a week. Jeremy says that his favorite part of tutoring club is that the tutors help a lot. On Wednesdays, Jeremy is excited to stay for dinner and recreation time especially if basketball is involved. Jeremy recently enjoyed a Tutoring Club rewards trip to John’s Incredible Pizza.