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Community pulls together to help homeless family

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Community pulls together to help homeless family
Ashlynn was all smiles before her mom drove her to school in the new family van.

Dave and Mary Kemnitz and the Clayton Concord Sunrise Rotary Foundation provided the last piece of a puzzle to help a local homeless family.

During a heat wave in mid-August, Concord resident Kathy Gleason found a homeless family living in their car behind Hobby Lobby in Concord. She stopped to offer them cold water and met 5-year-old Ashlynn and 10-year-old Tyler.

Sick from the heat, Tyler was lying on the sidewalk with no shirt on – resting his head on a teddy bear. Their old Toyota Corolla was filled with personal belongings, leaving little room to sit much less sleep.

Gleason and her housemate Kathy Barnett brought food, water, clothing and toys to the family daily. Then the family’s car died, leaving the family to survive on the streets.

At that point, Gleason posted a plea for help on Facebook. “I felt so bad for these kids. I thought: I’m just going to put this out in the universe and see who can help,” Gleason said.

Helping hands reach out

Sharon McGinnis Girdlestone from the Lamorinda Families sites reposted the story. Debbi Collins Babb also reposted and requested a $100 donation per family, then Sarah David reposted on her Lamorinda Treasures site on Facebook.

Families from Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga donated $5,000 to purchase a van and to help house the family in a motel until a van could be found. Gleason also raised funds for motel nights through Facebook friends, and she and Clayton resident Anna Chan provided supplies.

Finding a vehicle

Community pulls together to help homeless family
The team from D&H Enterprises found a van for the family.

The next step would be finding a vehicle. Gleason ran into Concord resident John Hemm at Safeway and mentioned the situation. He suggested contacting the Kemnitzes at D&H Enterprises in Concord.

As it turned out, they had a beautiful 2010 Chrysler Town and Country van for sale after someone had donated it to the Rotary. They settled on a wonderfully discounted price and presented the van to the mom and daughter Ashlynn on Sept. 11.

This humanitarian miracle transpired in only three weeks, with just a few small glitches along the way.

Through a member of Lamorinda Families, the family also now benefits from shelter and counseling at Winter Nights – a family shelter that rotates among churches. Counseling includes help with job recruitment and housing, and even homework help for the children.

“The goal is to help the mom find work and hopefully by springtime, they’ll have enough saved to get into an apartment,” Gleason said.

For more information about the Winter Nights Shelter, visit cccwinternightsshelter.org.

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