For years, The Sacramento Bee's holiday drive has sought to help those in need in the capital region. Today, we start a new series of tales of hope and generosity.
The inviting aroma of garlic and Italian herbs wafted down the long hallways of the home as eggplant parmesan and chicken baked in the oven.
The home’s residents meandered through the house as the dinner hour neared. While one woman relaxed on the couch, another read a Bible in her bedroom. All the while, volunteer Nita Duggins, 69, glided through the expansive kitchen, preparing that night’s dinner of donated food.
This is the Volunteers of America’s Sacramento Senior Safe House, a six-bedroom emergency shelter for seniors 62 and older who have been abused, neglected or exploited. The 4,783-square foot home, situated in an undisclosed location in the city, runs on donations and with the help of volunteers. And it’s one of Volunteers of America’s many programs in need this holiday season.
Typically, men and women who come to the Senior Safe House have been referred there by Sacramento County Adult Protective Services, as well as other community partners.
“Elder abuse is very real,” said Juanita Daniel, the program’s director. “We have had people say Senior Safe House gives safe a whole new meaning.”
Daniel is asking Book of Dreams readers to help purchase a dishwasher and other kitchen items for the Senior Safe House. Volunteers are hand-washing the dishes after every meal, Daniel said.
Mary, 77, said she didn’t expect the level of comfort she’s felt since she arrived, around staff, volunteers and others staying at the shelter. Because of the residents’ situations, The Bee is not publishing their full names.
As she stood in the doorway of her room, another participant paused near Mary, balancing carefully with one hand on her walker so she could pat Mary’s arm.
“I’ll be sad to leave,” Mary said. “I’ll miss these people like they were my own family.”
In the dining room, Debbie, 47, and her father, John, 68, sat and joked as the dinner hour approached.
The pair began staying at the shelter after a family member assaulted John, who served three tours with the Army in Vietnam.
They had fled their home, but after money ran out for motels, Debbie began looking for shelters. While other shelters would have split up the family, Senior Safe House offered the ability for Debbie to stay and remain a caregiver for her dad.
“They make you feel human again,” John said. “You never have to lock your (bedroom) door. That makes you feel good.”